AI stares at talent crunch

Written by Shaheen Mansuri | Mumbai | Updated: Apr 19 2011, 02:21am hrs
It's not just financial issues that national carrier Air India (AI) has to grapple with. The airline, which recently saw the high profile and controversial exits of Gustav Baldauf, chief operating officer (COO), Stephen Kumar, chief training officer and Pawan Arora, AI Express COO, will also see at least 4,000 senior level employees retire from their current positions over the next three years. This includes 30 directors, nearly 13 of whom will exit the airline by 2012.

Simultaneously, of the 50 general managers, 30 will retire by 2013, leaving AI to scout for external talent.

However, it would be interesting to see how AI approaches this huge human resources shortfall over the next three years, as it had, in the past, attempted to rationalise its workforce without success, owing to stiff trade union resistance. AI has a total staff strength of 30,000, and an annual salary bill of R3,000 crore. Surplus manpower is also considered as one of the reasons for the financial crisis at the carrier which is reeling under losses of R13,000 crore since its merger with erstwhile Indian Airlines in 2007. When contacted, Kamaljeet Rattan, chief information officer, AI, said, Its a natural progression for people to exit when they reach retirement age. We will recruit as and when situation demands.

According to sources, AI management is expected to announce some changes in a few key positions and will be naming some personnel to take over as executive directors in various strategic business units after the current incumbents retire, by the year end and even after 2011. Those who have reached their retirement age include Anup Srivastava, director-personnel and RR Rao, executive director engineering, Anita Khurana SBU head-cargo, and Chitra Sarkar, executive director (Americas and customer service), among others. The retirement age at AI is 58 years. Employees retiring after having rendered service to AI will be eligible of all the retiral benefits like group provident fund, encashment of leave, gratuity, and commuted pension.

Recently, there have been media reports on the government rejecting the plea of Anup Srivastava and Amod Sharma, a former SBU head, for a second extension on the airlines Board. Meanwhile, a committee of experts headed by retired judge DN Dharmadhikari has been appointed last month to sort out wage related issues between AI and erstwhile Indian Airlines employees.

Also, civil aviation minister Vayalar Ravi, who was in Mumbai recently to conduct meetings with various unions and the AI management, had said that he will look into the performance of general staff. He assured that he will take steps to better AI's operational and administrative performance.