Air India to stop post-retirement benefits on VRS

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In order to discourage people from opting for VRS, the state –owned airline is getting rid of fringe benefits that come along with VRS.

When Air India and Indian airlines – the two state-owned airlines were merged together in 2012, a huge task before the new entity was to manage the combined workforce which was surplus.

This is why Air India, to get rid of the excess staff post-merger, offered a lucrative VRS (voluntary retirement scheme) to employees who completed 15 years of service or were 40 years of age. The VRS scheme also included various post-retirement benefits. In the past four years, nearly 500 has opted for VRS.

Now the reverse has happened. In order to discourage people from opting for VRS, the state –owned airline is getting rid of fringe benefits that come along with VRS.

Till now, employees who opted for VRS or resigned prematurely were offered free air tickets and medical facilities. Air India will now put an end to these benefits, unless someone is resigning on extreme medical grounds.

It is learnt that Air India has received 100 applications for VRS in the recent past which includes, cabin crew, pilots and engineers.

Ashwini Lohani, managing director, Air India via a circular, stated, “The attrition of various categories of staffers, including those in the licensed category, is a matter of extreme concern as presently the company has been restricted from recruiting staff on a regular basis.”

“Obviously, most of such employees are seeking greener pastures. It needs appreciation that such attrition is extremely detrimental for the company, especially in the present critical juncture and therefore cannot be encouraged under any circumstances,” Lohani added.

“I therefore feel that the company should stop post-retirement and medical benefits to its employees who seek voluntary retirement or resign from service unless of course it is due to extreme medical reasons. This should also be applicable to those whose VRS applications are pending at present,” Lohani said.

Air India had in July 2012 approved a VRS scheme for permanent employees who had completed 15 years of service or are 40 years of age. In the past four years, nearly 500 staffers have gone for the separation method in search of better opportunities.

To implement this scheme, Air India sought a Rs 1,200-crore financial package from the government. But the proposal was shot down by the finance ministry. In 2014, Air India declined to relieve three engineering staff on the grounds that their departure would require it to pay a penalty of Rs 9 lakh a day for delays in a project these staffers were working on. The engineers later moved court which ordered their release from duty.

“I have put in over 20 years of service. By taking such steps, the airline management is only being unfair,” an employee whose VRS application is pending told Mumbai Mirror. A response sought from Lohani went unanswered.

“It’s an illegal move. First they ilegally cut salary by 25 per cent, then harassed us by non payment of salary on time. And now they are forcing us to be slaves because there was no forward plan,” an Indian Commercial Pilots Association member said.

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