Ten central trade unions on Tuesday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to stop the sale of Air India to Tata Sons and roll back the “policy of selling national assets”, reported The Hindu.

In a letter to the prime minister, the trade unions said that people of the country, especially the employees of Air India, were unhappy with the sale of the national carrier to the conglomerate.

The letter was signed by the Centre of Indian Trade Union, the Indian National Trade Union Congress, the All India Trade Union Congress, the All India United Trade Union Centre, the Hind Mazdoor Sabha, the Trade Union Coordination Committee, the All India Central Council of Trade Unions, the Self Employed Women’s Association, the Labour Progressive Federation and the United Trade Union Congress.

On October 8, Tata Sons had won the bid to Air India for Rs 18,000 crore. The salt-to-software conglomerate regained control of Air India nearly 70 years after its nationalisation. Air India was founded in 1932 as Tata Airlines by family scion and aviation enthusiast Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata.

The government had announced that Tata Sons will retain all Air India employees for a year.

On Tuesday, the trade unions said there was no clarity on the future of the airline’s 14,000 employees.

“By selling Air India by hook or by crook [because it is slowly emerging that it has been sold for a song], the government has tried to cover up its misdeeds,” the letter alleged.

It said that with Air India’s well-trained workforce, 141 aircraft, 4,400 domestic and 1,800 international slots at Indian airports and 900 abroad, the new owners will have better avenues of making profit.

The letter also said the sale of the airline to Tata Sons facilitated an oligopoly. The conglomerate already owns majority stakes in Vistara, a premium joint venture with Singapore Airlines, and in low-cost carrier AirAsia India.

“The combined revenues of the three airlines – Air India, Vistara and Air Asia – amounted to Rs 40,500 crore in 2020, out of the total revenues of the entire industry amounting to Rs 95,700 crore, i.e. 42.32%, whereas Indigo, has a market share of 37.41%,” the letter explained.

It added: “By any account, this would mean that privatisation of Air India has resulted in one of the most concentrated markets in India.”

On October 13, a group of ground staff and engineers of Air India had also threatened to go on strike from November 2 after a government order asked them to vacate their staff quarters within six months of the sale of the airline.

The Air India Joint Action Forum of Unions had asked the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation to let staff continue to live in their quarters for at least 12 months.

The Air Joint Action Forum of Unions comprises Air Corporation Employees Union, Aviation Industry Employees Guild and All India Service Engineers Association.

The unions had also demanded that the government should clear the employees’ pending dues before asking them to leave the staff quarters. They demanded that the government encash the employees’ leave allotments or carry them forward when Tata Sons take over the airlines.

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