Ashwani Lohani spent Monday pacifying employee unions for 2 hours. Here’s why

New Delhi: Monday for Air India’s Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) Ashwani Lohani began on a sombre note as he spent two hours trying to pacify representatives from more than a dozen employee unions of Air India. The meeting took place as the unions have come out strongly against the Centre’s move to disinvest the national carrier — a plan that was reiterated with a lot of emphasis by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman during Budget presentation on July 5.

‘Privatisation is not a remedy’

The unions have been opposing to sell the airline, claiming that privatisation is not a remedy. They have also pointed fingers towards the plight suffered by Kingfisher and Jet Airways that went belly up. As many as six airlines, all private, including Jet Airways, Air Pegasus, Air Odisha and Air Costa, have shut shops between 2014 and April 2019 for various reasons. A union functionary said, “The forum of 13 unions have decided to oppose the privatisation move.”

‘Ready to do anything but won’t accept privatisation’

In the two-hour-long meeting, union representatives told the management that they were ready to do anything to turn the airline around but would not accept privatisation at any cost, the source said. Unions also demanded a meeting with the Aviation Ministry as well as Finance Ministry over this issue, sources added. “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 said.

Lohani tells unions, it’s going to happen

Lohani, on his part, is believed to have told the unions that the disinvestment is on the Centre’s agenda and will happen. The statement comes a day after reports suggested that the government has set an October deadline for the completion of Air India’s disinvestment. The government had attempted to sell the airline in June last year but had failed to elicit interest from potential buyers.

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The 13 unions who met the CMD

The 13 AI unions who met the CMD include, 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.

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