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Air India to set up internal panel to address privatisation-related issues of employees: Source

MUMBAI: Civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri has asked disinvestment-bound Air India to set up an internal mechanism committee comprising members from the management and its various trade unions to sort out privatisation-related issues of employees, a source said on Monday.

At a meeting between the minister and representatives of over a dozen Air India unions in New Delhi on Monday, the minister also “assured” the employees of full payment of their arrears, according to the source.

The nearly hour-long meeting was also attended by Civil Aviation Secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola, Air India Chairman and Managing Director Ashwani Lohani and airline’s Director for Personnel Amrita Sharan, the source who was present at the meeting said.

“The minister during the meeting told Air india to set up an internal mechanism committee with members both from the management and the unions to sort out the employees issues related to privatisation,” the source said.

“Puri also assured the employees, mainly the pilots that the government was committed to full payment of their dues in the face of the privatisation,” the source added.

As per the source, the minister also told employees that contours about payment of dues are likely to be incorporated in the Expression of Interest (EoI) document.

On January 7, a group of ministers headed by Union Home Minister Amit Shah approved the draft EoI and Share Purchase Agreement (SPA) for the disinvestment of Air India.

At his first meeting with the unions on January 2, Puri had said privatisation was inevitable and cooperation of the employees was necessary in carrying out the exercise.

Media reports suggest that the new investor may be allowed to retain Air India’s some 11,000 employees only for one year after the carrier goes into private hands.

In 2018-19, Air India’s net loss was around Rs 8,556 crore.

The airline has a debt burden of more than Rs 80,000 crore.

In 2018, the government had proposed to offload 76 per cent stake in Air India while retaining the rest 24 per cent with it as well as transfer the management control to private players.

However, the offer had failed to attract any bidders.