Around 2,100 employees of Biman Bangladesh Airlines have sought voluntary retirement as the national carrier prepares to turn a public limited company, "without liabilities", by the end of this month. The number is 500 more than planned by the airline management.
Faced with so many applications for a golden handshake, Biman authorities will now have to short-list those it wants to let go.
Biman had planned to cut 1,593 jobs at various levels to reduce its manpower from around 5,000 to 3,400. It has sought 2.9 billion taka ($42 million) from the government to implement the voluntary retirement scheme (VRS), a Biman official said.
The government said it would shoulder the liabilities of Biman in order to turn it into a public limited company (PLC) with zero liabilities by June 30, New Age newspaper reported on Thursday.
After an inter-ministerial meeting convened to approve a draft ordinance for turning the loss-making national flag carrier into a PLC, civil aviation and tourism adviser to the interim government MA Matin said, "Biman will start its journey as a public limited company with zero liabilities."
The draft proposes renaming Biman The Bangladesh Airlines Limited when it turns into a PLC.
Biman now owes around 20 billion taka to different agencies, including 15 billion taka to the Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation towards the fuel it has purchased and 3 billion taka to the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh. The airline operates a fleet of five old DC-10s, three Airbuses and four F-28s on 21 international and five domestic routes. It incurred a loss of around 12 billion taka in fiscal year 2006-07.
Last year, the government tried to get foreign companies - including Singapore Airlines - to run the organisation fully or partially, but did not succeed.
Matin said Biman would initially be a fully government-owned company and its board of directors would have seven to 10 members. Then the government would gradually offload up to 49 percent of the shares to the private sector.