Monday, July 03, 2017

Air India sale: Employee count least of buyer's worries, govt should ignore unions' protests

New Delhi: Employee unions of Air India are opposed to the government’s decision to disinvest this ailing airline. Employees, long used to PSU culture with little accountability, disproportionate perks and time-bound promotions are afraid of what the future holds. They may rightfully be scared about their livelihoods but this cannot be the only reason for the government to step back from its stated intent to bring on board a strategic investor. The employees are anyway reacting too soon – there is still no clarity on whether the government will exit Air India fully, in one go and whether it will seek a guarantee from any future investor in terms of absorbing existing employees.

This piece says the Air Corporations Employees' Union (ACEU), the largest among Air India’s unions, is planning to meet the group of ministers to be set up by the government to look into the disinvestment process. The ACEU is a grouping of Air India's non-technical staff and comprises more than a third the total 21,137 employees. Seven unions of Air India have already joined hands to oppose the privatisation process and they together wrote to civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapthi Raju last month, warning him of an "industrial unrest".

The article further quotes a member of ACEU as saying "The meeting will be held to enlighten the rank and file about the privatisation of Air India and how it will affect them. This will also be a forum to organise them as we plan a movement against the privatisation of the national carrier. The move is clearly aimed at benefiting private airlines. If the government is so concerned about the taxpayers' money, then why does it not recover Rs 7.5 lakh crore borrowed by corporates from public sector banks?"
03/06/17 Sindhu Bhattacharya/First Post