Following the backlash over the government’s plans for privatizing Air India, chairman Ashwani Lohani beseeched the company’s employees to prepare themselves for the incoming ‘corporate culture’, in a letter addressed to them.
These are changing times and any change, despite being inevitable, is always hard to accept. Ownership changes that we expect at Air India would also lead to a change in the working environment and the work culture,” Lohani was quoted as saying in a media report.
Attempting to explain how the new culture would be beneficial to the employees, he said: “The complexities of working in a PSU environment would get replaced by a corporate culture, a culture in which merit would get a better deal. This should enable a full realization of the inherent potential of your airline besides creating an environment that would indeed be conducive for all of us who are used to working hard with commitment and integrity".
The letter’s issuance coincided with Air India’s employees' union Air Corporation Employees’ Union (ACEU) protesting against the national carrier’s disinvestment, at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi.
ACEU appeals to the government of India not to go for privatization and disinvestment of Air India,” J.B. Kadian, general secretary of ACEU, was quoted as saying in a statement, adding, “We are always ready to turn around Air India.”
The ACEU has close to 8,000 of the airline’s total 21,137 employees as members, and represents Air India’s non-technical staff.
Lohani, on his part, elaborated on the reasons for this decision, saying, "This huge debt has accumulated due to continuous losses over the years. You would, however, appreciate that unless a solution is found to this huge debt, survival in the long run is almost impossible and the proposal to consider disinvestment is a step in this direction. It is the firm conviction of the government that the process of disinvestment is only meant to make Air India a much stronger world class airline.... This would indeed be a win-win solution for employees,"
Acknowledging the grave challenges currently faced by the airline due to the move, he said "While it is true that the merger has led to operational difficulties, yet we remain confident of solving the genuine grievances of the employees, an effort that has met with success though on a limited scale".
Last month, the Union Cabinet gave its in-principle approval for the disinvestment of Air India. A group of ministers, headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will soon convene to finalize the modalities of the move.