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Air India to send some employees on compulsory unpaid leave for up to 5 years

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Air India has started the process of identifying employees, based on various factors like efficiency, health and redundancy, who will be sent on compulsory leave without pay (LWP) for up to five years, according to an official order.

The airline’s board of directors have authorised its chairman and managing director Rajiv Bansal to send employees on LWP “for six months or for a period of two years extendable up to five years, depending upon the following factors—suitability, efficiency, competence, quality of performance, the health of the employee, instance of non-availability of the employee for duty in the past as a result of ill health or otherwise and redundancy”, the order said.

The departmental heads in the headquarters, as well as regional directors, are required to assess each employee “on the above-mentioned factors and identify the cases where option of compulsory LWP can be exercised”, stated the order dated July 14.

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“Names of such employees need to be forwarded to the General Manager (Personnel) in headquarters for obtaining necessary approval of CMD,” the order added.

In response to queries regarding this matter, Air India spokesperson said, “We would not like to make any comment on the issue.”

The aviation sector has been significantly impacted due to the travel restrictions imposed in India and other countries due to the coronavirus pandemic. All airlines in India have taken cost-cutting measures such as pay cuts, LWP and firings of employees in order to conserve cash flow.

For example, GoAir has put most of its employees on compulsory LWP since April.

India resumed domestic passenger flights from May 25 after a gap of two months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the airlines have been allowed to operate only a maximum of 45 per cent of their pre-COVID domestic flights. The occupancy rate in Indian domestic flights has been around 50-60 per cent since May 25.

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Scheduled international passenger flights continue to remain suspended in India since March 23.

The passenger demand for air travel will contract by 49 per cent in 2020 for Indian carriers in comparison to 2019 due to COVID-19 crisis, said global airlines body IATA on Monday.