The Government of India is all set to invite fresh expressions of interest (EoIs) in two weeks, to sell the entire stake in Air India. However, the Airline’s 11,000 strong workforce has been guaranteed job protection for one year.
As per the sale and purchase agreement (SPA), no employees will be laid off for a period of one year.
Given the high costs of employees and productivity levels in the government sector, employee issues of PSUs have always been a concern for buyers. It is also natural for buyers to focus on overhauling the staff, especially in the airlines business where the margins are very less. At Air India, the employee costs amounted to Rs 3,005 crore, that is, 11.4 per cent of the total revenue receipts in FY19. The Airline had about 11,827 people (excluding casual workers) as on March, 2018. About 37 per cent of its permanent staff will retire by 2024.
Whoever buys the national carrier, will, in all likelihood, have to take over about Rs 24,000 crore, which includes debt backed by assets, as well as liabilities such as working capital loans and amounts owed to suppliers of aviation fuel.
Though the process has started after innumerable hurdles and delays, the Government is now very much interested in privatising the national airline by the end of this fiscal. The Department of Investment and Public Asset Management even held a roadshow on the sale of Air India, in London, wherein it answered queries of investors.