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Woes Continue to Pile on for Air India

by Ajay Prakash

Air India’s tale of woes continues. The latest one being is that the airline plans to send off several of its employees on compulsory unpaid leave. In airline terms, it is called Leave Without Pay (LWP). The period of LWP will either be six months or two years, extendable up to 5 years. The airline has already started identifying employees based on select criterion. An internal order dated July 7 of the Board of Directors had authorised the Chairman and Managing Director to initiate steps in this direction.

Job cuts already started

Surprisingly, a few days ago, the two main Pilots Associations in India had written to the Air India CMD listing out ways to reduce financial stress. The suggestions included wage reductions and sending employees on long leaves without pay. This move has upset the airline employees and engineers unions.

Photo Credit: PTI

Air India has also withdrawn job offers for around 180 trainee cabin crew members. In a letter sent to the trainee cabin crew member on July 6. The airline said, “Given the current aviation scenario, it would not be possible for Air India to impart any further training to you for engaging your services. In view of the above reasons, which are beyond the control of the company, it has been decided to discontinue your training arrangement and dispense with the offer of engagement with immediate effect.

The management has also denied the request of over 50 pilots to withdraw their resignations. These pilots were serving the mandatory notice period.

Air India sale process continues

In the meantime, the government continues with the process of finding a buyer for Air India. As reported by CNBC in January this year, the total debt of the airline is estimated to be around $8.3 billion. The government has already approved 100 per cent sale of its stake in Air India. The last date of receiving bids was June 30.

Rationalising human resources is a crucial measure for improving Air India’s performance and also attracting buyers. However, some of the conditions of employee disengagement do not appear logical. In the coming days, the employee unions are sure to negotiate with the management.

It appears that the airline is using the current economic scenario to restructure and ready itself for a quick closure of the sale. This time, it seems though, the management has been successful in taking the pilots on board.

Turbulent times ahead for Air India indeed!

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