Air India employees protest against airline’s privatisation

Mumbai: A group of Air India employees today held a lunch-hour meeting at the airline’s Kalina office to protest against the sale of the carrier to private players.

Air India employees today held a lunch-hour meeting at the airline’s Kalina office to protest against the sale of the carrier to private players.

During the half-an-hour protest meet, the union – Joint forum for Air India unions-guild-associations against privatisation – functionaries made the staffers aware of the “perils” of privatisation and its consequential impact on the employees jobs, one of the member of the forum said.

This was the first action by the Air India forum againt government’s privatsation move following the civil aviation ministry seeking expression of interest (EoI) from potential bidders for a 76 per cent stake sale in the loss-making carrier as well as divestment of two of its subsidiaries.

“Nine trade unions participated in our protest meeting during the lunch hour. The privatisation is in no way going to safeguard the employees interest. And for this reason we are totally opposed to it,” the member said.

“With such meetings, the various unions are trying to create an awareness among the employees about the impending job losses,” he added.

Air Corporation Employees Union, All India Service Engineers’ Association, Air India Employees Union, Aviation Industry Employee Guild, Air India Aircraft Engineers’ Association, All India Aircraft Engineers’ Association, Air India Engineers Association and United Air India Officers Association and Aviation Industry Employees Guild are the part of the forum.

Together, these unions represent over than 10,000 Air India employees.

The civil aviation ministry has sought EoIs from potential bidders for a 76-per cent stake sale in loss-making Air India as well as divestment of Air India Express and AI-SATS.

On March 28, the ministry came out with the preliminary information memorandum on Air India’s strategic disinvestment.

As per the memorandum, the government plans to offload 76 per cent equity share capital of the national carrier as well as transfer the management control.

The proposed transaction would involve Air India, its low-cost arm Air India Express and Air India SATS Airport Services Pvt Ltd, which is an equal joint venture between the national airline and Singapore-based SATS Ltd.

Eight of these unions had earlier also in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged the possibility of retrenchment of workforce in case of privatisation, citing job losses in the aftermath of the the previous NDA government’s decision to sell two Centaur Hotels properties in Mumbai.

“The private lobby is talking about Rs 30,000 crore bailout package to Air India for over 10-year period as a waste of tax payers money and has sought its privatisation. But the same people are keeping quite on the default of over Rs 8 lakh crore of government-owned banks by the private corporate/companies only,” the member alleged.

The debt-ridden national carrier is staying afloat on little over Rs 30,000 crore bailout package extended by the previous UPA regime.

“Moreover, the government is selling the airline at a time when its making operating profit and is on the way to financial and operational improvement. That way, is it not trying to socialise the losses and privatise the profit? ” the member asked.

Air India has been “consistently improving” its overall performance and more than doubled its operating profit to Rs 298.03 crore in 2016-17 financial year, junior minister for civil aviation Jayant Sinha had informed Parliament earlier this year.