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Air India Saga: new EoI for divestment likely by November

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Air India Saga: new EoI for divestment likely by NovemberNew Delhi, Oct 14 (IANS) The Centre is likely to issue the expression of interest (EoI) for divestment of its stake in national passenger carrier Air India by November.

According to airline employees, the proposed EoI is slated for early next month in place of October-end, when it was initially planned to be issued.

A meeting was called by the airline’s management to brief several employees’ unions over the proposed divestment process and its ramifications.

An airline employee, who attended the meet, told IANS here that the management has informed the unions that under the new arrangements for divestment, the government will not guarantee job safety in the new private entity beyond a year.

“The management has informed us that job security will be there for only one year from the time of privatisation. After this period, jobs will depend upon the new owners. However, the management said that they are trying to get job security of at least 3 years,” the union member said.

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“We were also informed that in the private entity, employees will not be able to encash their leaves.”

However, gratuity will be covered for employees.

Other provisions like medical facilities will not be available post retirement and travel passes on Air India flights will be based on market standards.

The unions expressed “concerns” over the lack of information on the divestment process and the future of the airline.

On the other hand, a senior Air India official told IANS, that the management has assured the unions that their interests will be protected.

“Management has been forthcoming in communicating and interacting with the unions over this crucial issue. They have been given assurances to the employees that their interests will be protected.”

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At present, Home Minister Amit Shah heads the panel which is looking after the divestment process. Other members of the panel include Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Commerce and Railway Minister Piyush Goyal and Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri.

In the previous Modi government, then Finance Minister Arun Jaitley headed the Ministerial panel, called Air India Specific Alternative Mechanism (AISAM).

After failing to find a bidder in its previous term, the Modi 2.0 government is working on war-footing to sell Air India to a private player.

Air India has a total debt of about Rs 58,000 crore. The cumulative loss of the national carrier is to the tune of Rs 70,000 crore. In the financial year ending March 31, 2019 the airline is estimated to have reported a loss of Rs 7,600 crore.

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