South Asian Insider
Air India employee unions meet minister with concerns over fate
The government has set an ambitious disinvestment target for financial year 2020 at Rs 1.05 lakh crore which also includes proceeds from the sale of a stake in Air India. (News Agencies)- Employee unions affiliated to Air India have sought assurances that their interests will be protected by the government during the privatisation of the national career. 26 representatives of 13 Air India unions met the aviation minister Hardeep puri on Thursday afternoon with several concerns, including fate of perks like medical facilities enjoyed by retired employees in the event of privatisation. "The minister said that they would need employees' cooperation during the process and ensured help with pending dues," said an official. An airline official close to the developments said the minister made it known that the airline cannot survive without privatisation. "The government has made it clear that no expert has a solution to save the national carrier that has a debt of Rs 80,000 crore, due to which privatisation is the only option left," the official said. The government was represented by aviation secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola and Air India chairman and managing director- Ashwani Lohani in the meeting. The government-run airline has around 14,000 employees and the unions have been opposing divestment of its stake to private players. Officials at the meeting said the airline will seek "expression of interest" from prospective buyers by the end of January 2020. An official said the minister during the meeting dismissed reports that the airline was not finding buyers as "rumours". Another senior official, who is privy to the developments, said an airline based in the middle-east has shown interest in buying a stake in Air India. A few days ago, a senior airline official had expressed fears that Air India might well go Jet Airways way if a prospective buyer does not come on board by June 2020. The government has set an ambitious disinvestment target for financial year 2020 at Rs 1.05 lakh crore which also includes proceeds from the sale of a stake in Air India. Another meeting with the unions has been called after ten days.
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