NEW DELHI: Sale-bound Air India's decision to re-employ nearly half a dozen retired officers at key positions has left many senior executives annoyed.
The move has not gone down well with many of them claiming that it has not only affected the career progression of current employees but also adds to the cost.
The positions filled with retired officials are Executive Director (Medical), ED (Disinvestment), ED (Civil), ED (Art) and ED (Finance). IANS had on October 29 reported that the airline had hired an expensive publicist despite having a full-fledged and functional corporate communication department.
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The re-employment has been done despite the airline bleeding profusely and struggling to survive without another financial support from the government. The airline is reported to have made an operating loss of Rs 4,685 crore in 2018-19 while its net loss was largest in its history at Rs 8,556 crore (provisional).
"Re-employment clearly shows that the management is not serious about cost-cutting," said an official wishing not to be named. Air India did not reply to the IANS query on the issue despite multiple attempts.
In reply to various Parliament questions on Air India, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri has said that government was closely reviewing the operational and financial performance of the airline to ensure its successful disinvestment.
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In view of the impending disinvestment, the government had earlier directed Air India to freeze all promotions and fresh recruitment.
A former Secretary to the Central Government said that re-employment does not fall in the category of promotions or fresh recruitment and hence not a violation of any rule. Further, contractual appointment is a disposable liability and can be terminated at any time.
"But in India, people think it is their fundamental duty to misuse the rule," he added.
After failing to disinvest its majority stake last year, the Modi government has decided to completely exit the loss-laden carrier. The first phase of bidding could kick off next month with the government coming out with preliminary information memorandum (PIM) for expression of interest (EoI).
As many as 21 private airlines have shut shop since the government liberalised its aviation policy in 1992 but Air India has survived with the government always throwing it a lifeline. But this time, it may not be as lucky with Aviation Minister Puri announcing that the airline will be closed, if not disinvested.