As Centre Looks At An October Deadline For Sale, Air India Employees Union Oppose Move To Privatise The Airline

As Centre Looks At An October Deadline For Sale, Air India Employees Union Oppose Move To Privatise The Airline Reservation and ticketing counter of Air India (Kalpak Pathak/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Over a dozen unions of Air India July have strongly opposed the latest bid by the government to sell the beleaguered national carrier during a meeting with the airline's management, PTI reported.

After a failed attempt to sell the airliner last year, the government on July 5 had reiterated its intent to move ahead with the disinvestment of Air India.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman during her budget speech categorically asserted that the government will go ahead with its privatisation.

Presenting the budget, Sitharaman had said, "In view of the current macroeconomic parameters, the government would not only re-initiate the process of strategic disinvestment of Air India, but would also offer more central enterprises for strategic participation by the private sector."

The Finance Minister also said that the government was examining a proposal to hike the foreign direct investment limit in aviation.

After the budget announcement on July 5, Air India chairman Ashwani Lohani convened a meeting of all the 13 unions of the airline July 8 to discuss the privatisation plan.

During the meeting, Lohani conveyed to the unions that Air India's divestment is on the Centre's agenda and a roadmap would be unveiled soon.

The government is reportedly targeting October as the deadline for announcing the deal.

"The forum of 13 unions have decided to oppose the privatisation move," PTI quoted a union functionary as saying after the meeting with the management.

During the meeting, which lasted for about two hours, union representatives told the management that they would spare no efforts to achieve a turnaround of the carrier but said that they would oppose the privatisation at any cost.

Another union functionary told PTI that the unions demanded a meeting with the Aviation Ministry as well as Finance Ministry over this issue.

"The unions have asked for the payment of all pending arrears first, before considering anything. Moreover, they have also asked for protection of all post-retirement benefits of employees," the functionary added.

The unions also contended that privatization is no pancea for the trouble national carrier pointing to the bankruptcy of Kingfisher and Jet Airways.

The 13 AI unions 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.