Air India announces voluntary retirement scheme for employees

NEW DELHI: The Tatas have started fresh hiring for Air India and on Wednesday, the airline rolled out a voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) for some permanent employees — including cabin crew for the first time ever in AI’s history — who are either over 55 years of age or have completed two decades of service. For certain cabin crew members and other sections of employees, the age to opt for VRS has been relaxed to 40 years.

“An ex-gratia amount will also be provided to employees who apply for voluntary retirement from June 1, to July 31, 2022, as a one-time benefit. (Those doing so) will also will also receive an additional incentive over and above the ex-gratia amount,” says the order issued Wednesday by AI’s chief human resource officer, Suresh Dutt Tripathi, a Tata Steel veteran brought in by the group after taking over the Maharaja.

“The acceptance of your application for (these) benefits and the date of release shall be subject to management discretion. For further information on eligibility, computation of ex-gratia amount, application process and other queries related to the circular, please get in touch with the GM (personnel) of your respective region,” Tripathi’s order adds.

Apart from certain cabin crew members, the age to opt for VRS to 40 has also been relaxed for some grades of clerical and unskilled employees. Even under government ownership in the last two years AI had rolled out a VRS for some of its employees. The unions are questioning this move on the grounds that AI new owners have to retain employees for a certain time as per the terms of sale.

Whether rolling out a voluntary scheme violates violates the same, remains to be seen. Last October while announcing Tatas as the winners for AI bid, aviation secretary and last CMD of AI Rajiv Bansal had said: “AI has 12,085 employees (8,084 permanent and 4,001 contractual).

AI Express has 1,534 employees. They all have to be retained for a year. In the second year if someone has to be removed/retrenched, VRS will have to be paid.” About 5,000 AI employees were to retire in the next five years, meaning 1,000 annually. Sources had that day said the VRS will be only for permanent employees and not contractual — a problem for AI Express where everyone except pilots as on contract.