Over the last few months, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the primary political party within the India government, has been accelerating an airline privatisation agenda. Air India, the national carrier, and its low-cost subsidiary, Air India Express, have been listed for privatisation.
The Aviation Industry Employees Guild told the ITF that the non-transparent process envisaged by the government could result in dramatic job losses, discrimination, loss of income, deterioration of working conditions, and de-unionisation.
In his letter of 10 May, ITF general secretary Stephen Cotton wrote: “For years Air India has been forced to borrow funds, even for its day-to-day operations, resulting in a huge debt-load. As a result, the airline sustains substantial losses despite the fact that its workforce has been making serious sacrifices to keep it afloat although all these difficulties stem from the decisions made by successive governments.
“It is crucial that governments and investors recognize that the core asset of an airline is the skills, expertise and goodwill of employees. These are not an asset to be traded like a commodity, and nor should their security and working conditions be undermined.”
Stephen Cotton also reminded the prime minister that any change in the status of Air India should be negotiated with its workers and their unions and urged him “to start a process of sincere dialogue and engagement with the Joint Forum of Air India Unions/Guilds/Associations representing Air India workers based on respect for fundamental trade union rights to cushion the potential negative effects of privatisation on the workforce.”