In an attempt to allay the fears of potential layoffs among Air India employees on account of an imminent disinvestment of the company, chairman and managing director Ashwani Lohani reached out to the staff on Tuesday, writing that the government and the management would “safeguard” the “genuine and valid interests” of the employees, while ensuring that “suitable measures to this effect” are put in place.
“These are changing times and any change, despite being inevitable, is always hard to accept. Ownership changes that we expect at Air India would also lead to a change in the working environment and the work culture. The complexities of working in a PSU environment would get replaced by a corporate culture, a culture in which merit would get a better deal,” Lohani wrote in the letter.
The Cabinet granted an in-principle approval on June 28 for disinvestment of Air India. Under the chairmanship of the finance minister, the government has formed a committee to guide the strategic disinvestment process, and take decisions on aspects such as treatment of Air India’s debt, hiving off of certain assets to a shell company, demerger and strategic divestment of three profit-making subsidiaries, among others.
“This decision (to grant the in-principle approval) is primarily an offshoot of the inability of the airline to service the huge accumulated debt of over Rs 50,000 crore. This huge debt has accumulated due to continuous losses over the years. You would however appreciate that unless a solution is found to this huge debt, survival in the long run is almost impossible and the proposal to consider disinvestment is a step in this direction,” Lohani noted, in what was the first formal communication from airline’s management to its employees about the disinvestment, since the Cabinet’s decision.
According to a PTI report, a section of Air India employees on Tuesday, staged protest against the government’s decision to privatise the national carrier, saying they were always ready for turnaround of the airline. Around 300 employees, associated with the Air Corporation’s Employees Union, gathered outside the Air India office near New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International airport. Furthermore, reports on Tuesday also suggested that Air India was drawing up a proposal to offer voluntary retirement scheme to around 15,000 of its employees, but Lohani denied any such proposal on behalf of the airline.
“This news is baseless. There is no such proposal for VRS,” he said, responding to a query on the development. Lohani also wrote that despite the government’s decision to privatise the airline, Air India would continue to work on increasing its market share and add newer destinations.