The senior management and board of directors of Air India, which recently cleared a proposal to rationalise the number of unions in the airline to five, will hold elections and formalise the new unions by early next year, a senior official told FE on Tuesday.
“The board of directors has taken a decision; we hope to complete all formalities, including the elections, in 3-4 months,” the official said.
Under the proposal, Air India is set to have a union each for pilots, other workers, and ground-handling unit Air India Air Transport Services; Air India Engineering Services (AIESL) will get two unions.
“Since we can’t conduct the elections for the unions, we will either approach the labour authority or an independent body to conduct them,” the official said elaborating on the reasons for the three-four months time frame required to complete the due process.
Earlier, Air India had 15 recognised and unrecognised unions — including employee unions of Air India’s wide-bodied operations that fell under the management of Air India, and employees unions of Air India narrow-bodied operations, previously under the erstwhile Indian Airlines.
Indian Airlines was merged into Air India in 2007; issues related to human resource integration have plagued the cash-strapped national carrier since then. A senior pilot with Air India said though the merger had been completed on paper, employees continued to functioned as separate entities. “The management needs to address issues like transport, finances, leaves, salary, etc, which are still different for Air India and erstwhile Indian Airlines employees,” the pilot said.
“Unless the human resource issues are addressed, unification of unions would be disastrous,” he added.
Air India management, however doesn’t subscribe to this view.
Another senior official of Air India, who also refused to be named, told FE that the airline’s management has been looking for a union where the respective leaders chosen on the basis of elected majority and would be mandated after the interest of all employees.
“The rationale being that unless the unions take care of the entire workforce and don’t work for the benefit of few individuals, the merger in its true sense can never occur.”