Air India CMD tries to quell protests against disinvestment

A day after employee unions of Air India decided to oppose privatisation of the government-owned airline, Chairman and Managing Director Ashwani Lohani said the management is taking steps to protect genuine interests and there should be no cause of concern.

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Air India CMD tries to quell protests against disinvestment

Mumbai (Maharashtra) [India], Nov 8: A day after employee unions of Air India decided to oppose privatisation of the government-owned airline, Chairman and Managing Director Ashwani Lohani said the management is taking steps to protect genuine interests and there should be no cause of concern.

“It is but natural that many of you would be concerned about the future in light of disinvestment scenario as any change in ownership brings about changes in the work culture and environment,” he said in a letter to employees. “Kindly rest assured that the management fully shares your concerns and is taking necessary steps to protect genuine interests of all Air Indians. There is however absolutely no cause for any undue concern.”

The development comes as the government is working on final contours of disinvestment of loss-making Air India which is saddled with a debt of over Rs 58,000 crore. Nearly 20,000 employees are represented by Indian Pilots’ Guild (IPG), Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association (ICPA), Air Corporations Employees’ Union (ACEU), All India Aircraft Engineers Association (AIAEA), Air India Employees’ Union (AIEU), All India Service Engineers’ Association (AISEA), Aviation Industry Employees Guild (AIEG), officers’ association and others.

On Tuesday, the ICPA threatened to go on strike unless their long-pending demands related to salaries are addressed. Lohani said in the letter that several factors constrain Air India’s sustainable survival with disinvestment perhaps emerging as a viable alternative. “Being an airline, we function in a highly competitive environment, an environment in which our competitors are not constrained by the procedures, restrictions and oversight that we at Air India face placing us at a handicap both financially as well as operationally,” he said.

However, added Lohani, “it (disinvestment) may enable sustainability as well as help in attaining the full inherent potential of the national carrier, thereby also helping the nation in attaining its economic goals.”