Potential Bidders "Arm Twisting" Government On Air India Sale, Say Unions

In a statement issued today, the forum reiterated its opposition to the privatisation of the loss-making airline, calling Air India a national pride.

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Potential Bidders 'Arm Twisting' Government On Air India Sale, Say Unions

Government plans to offload 76 per cent equity share capital of Air India.

Mumbai:  Alleging that the probable bidders are using "arm twisting tactics" to force the government sell the national carrier cheap, a forum of 10 Air India unions said that it will take up the issue with the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and the civil aviation ministry, among others.

In a statement issued today, the forum also reiterated its opposition to the privatisation of the loss-making airline, saying that "it (Air India) is our national pride and it served the nation many a times in need." 

The statement comes in the backdrop of potential bidders opting out of the Air India sale process, one after another, since the government came out with the terms of offer in the information memorandum.

"The so-claimed probable buyers are using arm twisting tactics so as to put pressure on the government to succumb to change the terms and conditions best suited to them and the Air India is sold for a song," the Joint Forum of Air India Unions/Guilds/Association said in the statement.

The forum comprises Air Corporations Employees Union, All India Service Engineers Associations, Air India Employees Union, Aviation Industry Employee Guild, Air India Aircraft Engineers Association, All India Aircraft Engineers Association, Air India Engineers Association, United Air India Officers Association, All India Cabin Crew Association and All India Airline Retired Personnel Association.

On March 28, the civil aviation ministry came out with the preliminary information memorandum on Air India's strategic disinvestment, as per which, the government plans to offload 76 per cent equity share capital of the national carrier as well as transfer the management control.

The proposed transaction would involve Air India, its low-cost arm Air India Express and Air India SATS Airport Services, which is an equal joint venture between the national airline and Singapore-based SATS.

"The joint forum as stated many times has strongly opposed the privatisation of Air India and its subsidiaries as the Air India is our national pride and served the nation many a times at needs," the forum said.

"This statement is issued by the joint forum to safeguard the national interest. A detailed letter in this regard will be sent to the prime minister's office, ministry of civil aviation and Air India management," it added.

Budget carrier IndiGo, which is struggling with Pratt & Whitney engine issues in its A320 Neo planes, had initially evinced interest in acquiring Air India's international operations, but later backed out, saying such an option was not available under the disinvestment plan.

Days later, Naresh Goyal-owned Jet Airways also said it had decided not to participate in the Air India sale process considering the terms of offer in the information memorandum and based on its review.

The forum had held a protest meeting also at the national carrier's Kalina office in Mumbai's Santa Cruz yesterday against the government's privatisation move.

The government is giving the Air India to private players at a time when the carrier is improving its operational and financial performance, the forum had alleged, stating that the move amounts to "socialising losses and privatising profits."

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