A meeting has been called by the management of the national carrier Air India on Monday, October 14 with its employee unions to discuss the proposed selling of the airline to a private investor allowing the investor to hold 100% equity. The unions are vehemently opposed to the privatization of the company.
The government has made up its mind to offload its entire stake in Air India after having failed twice earlier to offload part of the equity. It may still not be an easy task finding the entity to make the huge investment in the airline. There were and still are two major issues any investor will have to contend with. The first is the huge pile of debt the airline is carrying and the other, the employee unions.
On the debt issue, the government has tried to alter the scenario by creating a special purpose vehicle, Air India Assets Holdings Ltd and a lot of assets and debts have been transferred to this entity. That may offer some comfort to the prospective investor. The unions issue is still to be addressed.
There are several unions in Air India, based on the trade they are associated with. These are Air Corporation Employees Union, Air India Employees Union, Indian Airlines Technicians Association, All-India Aircraft Engineers Association, Indian Commercial Pilots Association, Indian Pilots Guild, Air India Aircraft Engineers Association, Air India Cabin Crew Association, Air India Engineers Association, Aviation Industry Employees Guild, All-India Service Engineers Association and United Air India Officers Association.
The meeting on Monday called by the Air India Chairman Ashwani Lohani includes all these unions. Already, many of these unions have gone on record saying that the idea of privatizing Air India is a disastrous one. Their main worry is the loss of jobs. As a public sector company, the number of employees, when compared to the benchmark figures for employee strength in any private airline would be higher. It is reported that this is second meeting being held between the management and the unions.