16:20 GMT08 April 2020
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    New Delhi (Sputnik): India has started the process of strategic disinvestment to sell-off the ailing national carrier Air India, which has been incurring losses and accumulated debt to the tune of $8.4 billion.

    Trade unions from India’s debt-laden national carrier Air India have demanded that there should be reservations in recruitment and promotion to staff from underprivileged communities, as exists in government-run entities, post-privatisation.

    The union representatives held discussions and have put forward their concerns to a federal ministerial panel formed to finalise Air India's privatisation.  

    They also sought job security for employees until their retirement age even after a change of hands.

    In a report given to the federal ministerial panel, the unions have demanded that slots for categories of employees from underprivileged groups should continue in promotion and recruitment. 

    “The issue was deliberated upon and it was felt by the committee that job security must be provided to all employees till their age of superannuation", the report said.

    In a letter to the management, Air India employees stated that there has been no revision to their wages since 2017 and called for a nationwide strike.

    The other demands put forward by the union included, continued government accommodation until retirement age and passage facilities that include free air tickets for current and retired employees.

    The federal government has undertaken the process of disinvestment in two phases – Expression of Interest (EOI) by interested bidders and Request for Proposals for shortlisted bidders. The first phase has already kicked off and the proposed timeline to complete the first phase is 31 March.

    On the sidelines of an Air India event in Delhi earlier in February, India’s federal Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri assured the staff that, “Don’t be under the impression that this time there will be problems as the amount of interest I have seen in the acquisition (of the airline), I am reassured".

    Air India previously sought bids for disinvestment but did not yield encouraging responses from prospective buyers. 



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