New Delhi: Employees of the cash-strapped Air India today came up with several suggestions to cut costs during their second round of discussions, as the airline management appealed for tightening of belts to face the acute financial crunch.
The suggestions came as leaders of three major unions, representing almost 70% of the staffers, held a day-long meeting with Air India CMD Arvind Jadhav in the capital.
While the unions stuck to their earlier decision to launch an agitation following delay in June salary payment, their leaders said they would continue to hold talks with the management and later review their action plan.
Jadhav sought their help and participation in reviving the airline which is facing acute financial crisis and reeling under a loss of about Rs5,000 crore.
At the meeting, leaders of Air Corporation Employees’ Union (ACEU), Aviation Industry Employees’ Guild (AIEG) and Indian Aviation Technicians Association (IATA) suggested that many staffers were ready for transfer to low cost subsidiary Air India Express with lower salaries while others were ready to accept leave without pay for two years.
The CMD spoke about the grim financial scenario facing the airline industry and Air India in particular and sought their support to “fight for survival of our own airline”.
The AI management has already asked its top management not to take their July salaries and deferred the June salaries of all employees by a fortnight.
Announcing that six high-powered committees had been formed for revival of the national carrier, Jadhav assured the unions that their representatives would be included in all these panels.
The six committees were cost rationalisation committee, committee on green initiatives, committee on integration, committee on safety, committee on customer feedback and route rationalisation committee.
“The CMD has assured us that one member of each unions would be included in the six high-powered committees formed for revival of the airline,” George Abraham, general secretary of Aviation Industry Employees’ Guild, told the agency.
He quoted the CMD as saying that the scenario was tough and in the coming three to four months, it would be a question of survival of the three full service carriers — Jet Airways, Kingfisher and Air India — and said “tough measures to save the company were urgently required”.
The unions, on their part, assured the CMD about their readiness to cooperate with the management, Abraham said, adding that the CMD “welcomed” the suggestions on cost-cutting and savings made by the unions.
Out of a total of 31,000 Air India employees, 24,000 are members of the three unions -- AIEG, ACEU and IATA. About 70% AI staffs belong to these unions while the remaining include the airline’s pilots and engineers.
The unions claimed that out of a total salary expenditure of Rs350 crore by the airlines, only a minuscule 20% were being spent on their salaries, while 80% were being spent on the remaining 30% AI employees.
“Further rounds of talks between the airline management and the unions would be held next week,” said J B Kadian, general secretary of ACEU.
“But we will go ahead with the agitation programme as decided by the three unions. All employees would wear a black badge from 22-25 June while on duty, on 26 June we would hold a demonstration at our offices and on 30 June, we would be forced to adopt the policy of ‘no pay no work´ if the management fails to give us our salaries,” Kadian said.
Air India’s losses for the last financial year are estimated at over Rs4,000 crore, up from Rs2,226 crore in the previous fiscal.
The national carrier has approached the government for infusion of funds by way of equity, soft loans and a grant.
The demand has come in the wake of its orders for 111 new planes worth over Rs45,000 crore against a puny paid-up capital of Rs145 crore and authorised capital of Rs1,500 crore.