National carrier Air India (AI) is facing mass resignation by the pilots as they are unhappy with their salary and promotion. Around 120 Airbus A-320 pilots tendered their resignation after their demands pertaining to the salary hike and promotion were not paid heed to by the AI management. This came in the backdrop of the Central government’s decision to initiate the process of divestment of Air India’s stake, which has a debt of over Rs 60,000 crore. The Narendra Modi government’s plans to sell off loss-making Air India may remain a pipe dream.
Air India’s sale is also critical to meet the government’s Rs1.05 lakh crore ($15 billion) divestment target in the current financial year. But if only it was all that easy.
Pilots’ protest: (Oct. 13), Air India was rocked by the mass resignation of 120 Airbus A-320 pilots, who said their various demands went unheeded by the management. “Air India’s management should listen to our grievances. Our demands regarding salary hikes and promotions are long-pending, but they (the management) have failed to give a strong assurance,” a pilot, who resigned.
Opposition from unions: Air India’s largest union is vociferously opposing the “politically motivated” divestment process. The Air Corporation Employees Union (ACEU), whose members include the non-technical staff, has said that it will launch a “united struggle” against the privatisation bid, accusing the government of ignoring it.”The decision taken at the political level is fraught with disastrous consequences both from the point of view of the civil aviation sector as well in the interest of the nation,” the union said in a statement on Oct. 10.
Deepening cash crunch: Air India’s balance sheet, meanwhile, is turning from bad to worse.At a time when budget carriers like SpiceJet are posting record profits, the national carrier has suffered net losses of rs 8400 crore in the financial year 2019, up 57% from the previous year, particularly due to high aviation turbine fuel prices, rupee depreciation, cost of debt servicing, and an airspace closure by Pakistan.