Air India. (File Photo: IANS). Image Source: IANS News

New Delhi, Oct 15 : With the airline management remaining non-committal over leave encashment to employees in case of privatisation, a section of Air India staff has mooted the proposal to take voluntary retirement (VRS) en masse.

A union leader told IANS that the idea is being discussed with the members and a final call would be taken after the management's response on various issues raised with them.

"We are entitled for 300 days' leave encashment. While we remain opposed to privatisation, we have given a memorandum to the company management on protecting employee benefits in case the airline is sold. Many of our members at middle-level who have 2-3 years of service left find it beneficial to take VRS," the union leader said.

The employees of sale-bound Air India fear that they would not be able to encash their leaves in case the airline is taken over by a private company.

"Assuming that an employee gets Rs 5 lakh in annual salary and is about to retire in a year, it makes sense for him to take VRS instead of continuing in the job under new management," another Air India employee said.

An infuriated staff said that those deciding the sale of Air India "get pensions, health benefits and housing but want to deprive us of all our entitlements".

Air India has almost 11,000 employees on its rolls and has an average of 54 years. To be sure, the total number of employees does not include its other units and those on contract.

Depending on an employee's annual salary, the amount under leave encashment varies. Insiders said that many senior level officers in high salary grade are also finding it beneficial to choose VRS.

"In their cases, the leave encashment would be as high as Rs 25-26 lakh," the executive said.

Among other service benefits, the employees have demanded continuation of medical facilities and have suggested extension of central government health scheme (CGHS) coverage to them.

Apart from CGHS, group medical insurance has also been suggested but final outcome is awaited. "The proposal is to provide group insurance with OPD facility through a trust to be created with funding from the government," said a union leader who attended the meeting with the Air India management.

The government has decided to sell Air India after its failed bid last year and a ministerial panel headed by Home Minister Amit Shah is set to finalise the terms of sale. The express of interest (EoI) could beinvited by the end of this month.

(Nirbhay Kumar can be contacted at nirbhay.k@ians.in)

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