Air India’s employee unions today said they were preparing an alternative plan to revive the debt-laden national carrier, a day after the government announced that not a single bid had been received for the proposed stake sale in the loss-making airline.
The unions, under a common platform – ‘Joint Forum’, are also likely to hold a convention here soon of all stakeholders associated with the airline to deliberate its turnaround plan.
“The matter is not over as yet. We are planning to give an alternative plan to the government as to how to run and revive the airline. We will also suggest the government what all it can do which is in the interest of all stakeholders, including the employees,” said a union member.
Inputs were also being taken from experts within Air India in the preparation of the revival plan, they said.
The unions’ comments came a day after the deadline for submission of initial bids for Air India stake sale ended with no bidders evincing interest in the carrier, which is surviving on a Rs. 30,000-crore bailout package from the government.
Making a strong case for writing off the entire debt of Air India into a special purpose vehicle, the unions are of the view that the airline should not be given in private hands, especially at a time when the industry is grappling with the issue of non-performing assets (NPAs) or bad loans.
Lenders classify a loan as an NPA if dues are unpaid for 90 days.
Gross NPAs in the Indian banking system have reached a staggering level of nearly Rs 9 lakh crore, according to official data.
Air India total debt stood at over Rs 48,000 crore at the end of March 2017.
The unions have made several representations to the chairman and managing director of Air India and have organised a number of protest marches and rallies since the government in March came out with EoI for offloading 76 per cent stake in Air India.
The government proposed to offload 76 per cent equity share capital of the national carrier as well as transfer the management control to private players, as per the preliminary information memorandum.
The transaction would involve Air India, its low-cost arm Air India Express, and Air India SATS Airport Services Pvt Ltd. The latter is an equal joint venture between the national carrier and Singapore-based SATS
While the Congress has expressed its solidarity with the unions, RSS-affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch too has expressed opposition to the airline’s privatisation in its present form, suggesting an alternative proposal.
Its national co-convener Ashwini Mahajan has suggested that the “solution lies in IPO and not strategic sale”.
The Manch now plans to submit its alternative proposal to the government in a fortnight.