Civil Aviation minister Praful Patel on Thursday announced the setting up of a group of ministers (GOM) to finalise the merger of Air India and Indian, the former Indian Airlines. With the growing competition among airlines he also advised employees of Air-India and Indian to improve.
“I am personally not very happy with the way the two carriers are performing... Government support can be only up to a point. Beyond this the airlines will have to retain their standards of performance,” Patel told a news conference on Thursday after receiving the first of the newly acquired Airbus A 319 at the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) airport.
The GOM will be chaired by Finance Minister P Chidambaram and have Law Minister HR Bharadwaj, Planning Commission Deputy Chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Patel himself as members.
As reported by Hindustan Times on Wednesday, Patel said there would no retrenchment of employees after the merger. “Let me categorically state that there will not be a single retrenchment,” he said.
At the same time, however, he sent out a strong message to the employees stating that “each and every employee of Indian and Air-India to come up to the expectations of the people and the government".
“The government will not remain a mute spectator to the goings on in both the carriers,” he said but refused to elaborate further on problems the government thought were afflicting the two airlines.
The civil aviation minister said the government was not engaging in a blame-game with the airlines, but was "looking at the totality of a lot of things which should have been done and have not been done".
Patel said there would be no interference from the government in the functioning of the two airlines. On whether the two carriers would be allowed to make fresh aircraft acquisition demands in view of the prevailing aviation scenario, he said it was entirely up to the management of the airlines to take a call. "If they require more aircraft, they should come with the proposal and we will look into it positively,” he said.
Meanwhile, the employees’ union of the airlines have also demanded that they be made a party to the merger and decision-making processes. The Air Corporations Employees' Union (ACEU), in a statement, called the merger efforts a "unilateral decision" of the government, and demanded upward revision of wages for its members. It said it would not accept the merger if problems like pay structure, seniority, career progression and other issues, faced by the employees of both airlines, were not sorted out first.