Air India chief Ashwani Lohani on Thursday assured employees that the airline was taking necessary steps to protect their interests, reported ANI. Lohani wrote an open letter to the employees, saying that the company’s disinvestment will enable sustainability and help attain the full inherent potential of the national carrier.

Lohani’s letter came at a time when employees’ unions are planning to protest against the government’s disinvestment move. They said there was no clarity on the payment of salary arrears and pensions.

The Centre is planning to invite bids for the national carrier next month. The government will conduct roadshows at global financial centres such as London and Singapore to woo investors for the disinvestment.

“Air India, your very own national carrier, is easily the most well-known Indian brand across the globe,” said Lohani. “It is incumbent upon all of us together to ensure that the brand retains its sheen even in the present testing times.”

Lohani said Air India has been going through “an extremely stretched financial situation” because of the debt servicing liabilities. The airline’s debt, which stood at Rs 55,000 crore at the end of March 2018, grew to Rs 58,351.93 crore at the end of March 2019.

In August, Union Minister of Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri had said that the government was aiming for 100% privatisation of Air India. Puri claimed that “people are interested in acquiring Air India”.

In March 2018, the government had planned to divest 76% stake in Air India, ignoring a parliamentary panel’s recommendation to give the debt-ridden airline five years to revive itself. The proposed stake sale, however, failed to take off as the government did not receive any expressions of interest from potential bidders by the end of the deadline.