Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Fearing conflict, govt agrees to Air India employees' main demands

New Delhi: The central government has agreed in-principle to Air India employees' main demands. It fears an industrial dissension now could impede the process of privatisation. It has agreed to bear the cost of liquidation loss on account of transfer to the Employees' Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) from company-owned trusts, inclusion of employees in the central government health scheme (CGHS), and encashment of leaves.

The template of the Air India process will be followed for other public sector undertakings up for privatisation at a later date.

“The ministerial panel on Air India has agreed to most demands. If required, budgetary support will be provided before transfer of ownership takes place,” said a government official involved in the process.

Home Minister Amit Shah-led Group of Ministers met last week and decided to release budgetary support to meet the demands. Sources said the total outgo is projected to be around Rs 250 crore.

These issues had been snowballing. Had some employees moved court, that could have thrown a spanner in the works. The government, in fact, is looking to conclude the sale process by the end of this year, said Department of Investment and Public Asset Management Secretary Tuhin Kanta Pandey.

Air India’s eight employee unions have been urging the government to iron out the kinks in matters concerning human resources, including provident fund (PF), medical, and other welfare benefits.

Reports said the Tatas were already concerned over the lawsuit filed against the company by Scottish energy company Cairn Plc and have sought an indemnity clause in the share purchase agreement.

Air India has 16,077 employees, of which 9,617 are permanent, entitled to gratuity and other benefits.

The government has put 100 per cent stake of the airline on the block, including its low-cost international subsidiary Air India Express and 50 per cent in the ground-handling subsidiary Air India SATS.

24/08/21 Arindam Majumder/Business Standard

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