Vayalar Ravi kindles fresh hope among Air India employees

Shubhra Tandon Mumbai | Updated on February 20, 2011 Published on February 20, 2011

Fresh approach: The Civil Aviation Minister, Mr Vayalar Ravi, appears to have hit it off well with the employees of Air India during his recent meetings with them.

Promises to look into issues of wage parity, promotions

“We left the room with great hopes after meeting him,” says a senior Air India union official, after meeting the recently appointed Union Minister for Civil Aviation, Mr Vayalar Ravi.

This sense of renewed hope is heard from employees across Air India — from officers, to engineers, to class II and III employees. There is optimism of something constructive coming out of meetings between employees of the beleaguered carrier and the Minister.

Positive approach

“In the last year to year-and-a-half the employees have been really demoralised seeing no direction in the company. The very fact that he (Mr Ravi) sacked Mr Pawan Arora just after joining shows he is really positive about the turnaround of Air India,” says a senior official of one of the bigger Air India unions. “Whether something really happens or not only time will tell but he (Mr Ravi) is more positive in his approach,” says the official echoing sentiments of other union members, who feel there is a marked change from the earlier leadership.

The Minister held two-day-long discussions in Mumbai earlier this week with representatives of 12 unions of erstwhile Air India and Indian Airlines. He also met the leadership of the two unions which were derecognised last year as they went on strike just after the air crash of an Air India Express aircraft in Mangalore.

Little is known of what transpired at these meetings between the Minister and employees.

But Mr Ravi, in briefings to newspersons after these meetings, said he would look into all grievances posed by the employees, including human resource integration between the erstwhile Air India and India Airlines, and issues of wage parity, promotions, and so on. He also said that he was beginning with a ‘clean slate' and that the performance of the top-management too would be under the scanner.

This approach, employees say, was “different” from the Civil Aviation Ministry's earlier stance — and they now expect to be taken on board before key decisions are carried out. Mr Ravi too acknowledged that employees' confidence was low and that he would be in continuous touch with them in the days to come.

Patient hearing

Not just the turnaround plans, employees are appreciative of the man himself. “He's very clear, crisp and a no-nonsense person,” says another employee. It also helps that the Minister was once himself a trade union member — the Founder President of the Kerala Students Union (KSU), the students' wing of Indian National Congress in Kerala. He was also associated with Indian National Trade Union Congress.

“He's close to 73 years in age but it's commendable on how he's been patiently hearing everyone since morning and has been taking note of whatever we are saying,” notes another union member who attended the meeting with Mr Ravi.

The Minister was involved in a two-day long meeting with the unions and the management in Mumbai. A senior member, further said, he is “much more accessible”.

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Published on February 20, 2011
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