strategic disinvestment of the national carrier, according to union representatives.
The government has satrted the stake sale process and has issued a detailed preliminary information memorandum wherein it has proposed to sell 76 per cent stake and cede management control to private players in a bid to revive the loss-making Air India.
Even though there have been discussions at different points of time among the government, Air India management and various employees unions, concerns over the future of staff at the airline as well as the subsidiaries continue to remain.
Against this backdrop, a joint forum of 11 Air India employees unions, including those from various subsidiaries, are now resorting to social media engagements to put across their concerns to the larger public, policy makers and elected representatives about the stake sale proposal.
Apart from traditional ways of protest like lunch hour meetings and wearing badges, the forum has started using Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram platforms to reach out to employees across stations and solicit their support, according to a member of the forum.
The employees are also being encouraged to write blogs with regard to Air India disinvestment as there are concerns over possible job losses, the member added.
The 11 unions- that represent more than 10,000 employees of Air India group- are vehemently opposing the proposal to sell 76 per cent government stake in Air India, 100 per cent shareholding in Air India Express and its 50 per cent stake in equal joint venture AISATS.
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, All India Airline Retired Personnel Association and Indian Aircraft Technicians Association.
Pilots' groupings -- Indian Pilots Guild and Indian Commercial Pilots Association- are said to be in support of disinvestment provided their salary dues and other arrears are cleared, according to sources at the airline.
These unions have already held lunch hour meetings at four places, including at Old Airport in Kalina in the Western Santacruz suburb of Mumbai against the privatisation and have now called on their members to wear 'Save Air India' badges from Monday to oppose the move.
As per the preliminary information memorandum, issued on March 28, the government would retain 24 per cent stake in Air India while the winning bidder would be required to stay invested in the airline for at least three years.
AI has a total debt of around Rs 50,000 crore. Under the terms of sale issued on March 28, bidders for the airline arm — AI, AI Express and AI-SATS (airport service company) — will have to take over debt of Rs 24,576 crore and current liabilities of Rs 8,816 crore. However people handling the sale point out that of this combined sum of Rs 33,392 crore, the interest-bearing debt is only Rs 16,500 crore. The rest is current liabilities and financial leases.