Nacil to offer 15,000 workers unpaid leave

Nacil to offer 15,000 workers unpaid leave

Hyderabad: In an attempt to cut costs, state-run National Aviation Co. of India Ltd, or Nacil, said it was working out a plan that will give nearly 15,000 employees at the Air India-branded airline the option to take leave without pay for between three and five years.

The proposal, made public by Nacil chairman and managing director Raghu Menon in an interview with news agency PTI first, is voluntary, the airline said. “We are planning to offer leave without pay for three to five years—we can consider it for about 15,000 employees," Menon told the agency.

If 1,000 employees go on leave, a senior Nacil executive said, the airline could save Rs4 crore in salary costs a month. The executive did not want to be named.

The airline today has nearly 33,000 employees on its rolls servicing a fleet of around 150 aircraft.

The Nacil plan comes days after Jet Airways India Ltd, the country’s largest airline by passengers carried, said it was laying off nearly 2,000 employees. In this fiscal alone, JetLite Ltd, a low-cost carrier unit of Jet Airways, has sacked some 750 employees, and Deccan Aviation Ltd, which merged with Kingfisher Airlines Ltd, about 300. Jet Airways and Kingfisher entered into an operations alliance on Monday.

The Air India scheme is likely to come up for board approval in six-eight weeks, a senior executive at the company said. If cleared, non-operational staff, such as cargo loaders, will have the choice to accept the voluntary offer. Those who are engaged in what in the airline industry are called operational staff, including pilots and cabin crew, cannot opt for this scheme.

Jitendra Bhargava, Nacil’s executive director for corporate communications, said the employees will have the choice to join back after three to five years.

A Nacil worker representative, who did not want to be named, said the workers’ union group he was part of was open to the scheme since the leave option was up to the employees to decide upon. “These types of measures are normal during a slowing economy. Moreover, this is not a compulsory one, but voluntary." He added there was a similar scheme in 1998 in erstwhile Air India and that around 1,100 employees availed of this scheme.

Airlines in India expect to post a combined loss of up to $2 billion this fiscal, more than double the losses they made in 2007-08.

PTI?contributed to the story.