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AI gears up for change

india Updated: Jun 26, 2009 01:49 IST
Lalatendu Mishra
Lalatendu Mishra
Hindustan Times
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The management and employee unions of Air India on Thursday got into action to save the airline from financial mess, a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh committed financial lifeline to the 77-year-old national carrier that’s making a loss of Rs 15 crore a day.

Air India chairman and managing director Arvind Jadhav met union leaders in marathon meetings throughout the day here, seeking their cooperation to bring the airline — whose accumulated losses stand at over Rs 9,000 crore — back from the brink.

A turnaround committee has been formed to work on a detailed revival action plan that would be submitted to the PM within 30 days.

Nine joint committees have been set up with representation from both the management and the unions to look into various issues concerning the airline. Every department has been asked to submit a detailed cost-saving report on July 3 for appropriate action.

“A turnaround committee has been set up and union representatives have been asked to make a presentation identifying areas where saving can be effected,” an air India spokesperson said.

In survival mode, there is overall sense of urgency among unions to improve performance in a time-bound manner. But unions representing large sections of employees said a big no to any salary cut, though the management did not raise this issue at the meeting.

Union leaders pointed out that employees were not responsible for the current financial catastrophe.

“Employees had no role in taking policy decisions,, including the merger that caused the current situation,” said Vivek Rao, secretary, Air Corporation Employees Union. “Because we are blamed, we will be in each committee and get involved in every step so that the nation would know the truth that led to this condition.”

A joint action committee of pilots, engineers and officers representing 4,000 top grade employees has extended its full cooperation to Jadhav to go ahead with the revival plan.

“Because the prime minister has reposed faith in us, we will do everything to help the chairman achieve his goals,” said Captain R.S. Otaal, general secretary, Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association.

“In six months, the airline will be back on track. We are open for any wage revision.”
Technicians highlighted the need to save money and questioned disparity in wages that is bleeding the airline.

“We will point out to all wrong decisions that led to wasteful expenditure and help in reducing cost,” said NS Kapoor, general secretary, Air India Service Engineer’s Association. “We told the chairman we should not be punished for faulty policies of the previous management.”