- Trade union alliance demands Govt. cease politicisation of national carrier
- NYRAS report on final restructuring plan on 31 March
By Skandha Gunasekara
Calling for an immediate end to the politicisation of the national carrier, the trade union collective of SriLankan Airlines yesterday urged the Government to carry out an immediate, transparent restructuring of the troubled enterprise.
Addressing a media briefing at the headquarters of the Airline Pilots Guild of Sri Lanka (APGSL), the trade union collective stressed on the need to carry out the proposed restructuring program with a commercial view.
APGSL President Captain Ruwan Vithanage told Daily FT that an immediate restructuring of the Airline was essential to revive the carrier.
“A restructuring has to happen, and it must be done in a transparent manner. A Board capable of proper objective management needs to be appointed. At present we don’t see the direction the company is taking to be beneficial,” Vithanage said.
Vithanage pointed out that a British organisation known as NYRAS was hired by the Government in 2016 to offer advice on matters pertaining to SriLankan.
NYRAS is an independent, international aviation consultancy, comprised of industry experts, based in the UK. Its preliminary report had outlined a restructuring program under five broad areas - managing the right size and type of aircraft fleet, debt restructuring, tax concessions, network rationalising and fuel price - to restructure and improve its financial position. “NYRAS in their initial report made several recommendations to the Government to minimise losses, but we have yet to see these recommendations implemented,” said Vithanage, adding that the final report on the restructuring plan is to be presented by NYRAS to the Government on 31 March.
He further revealed that though the alliance of SriLankan trade unions had submitted a Right to Information (RTI) application to the SriLankan administration seeking disclosure of details such as financial transactions and wages of employees, the administration had refused to comply, resulting in the issue being taken up before the RTI Commission yesterday.
“The SriLankan management made their argument before the RTI commission and we made ours. The Commission will give a final ruling on 16 March,w” Vithanage said, remarking that the alliance was suspicious about whether CEO Suren Ratwatte was paying income tax or was having the airline pay that as well.
To further their agenda, the trade unions of SriLankan formed an alliance yesterday, signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), pledging to safeguard the status of the airline while ensuring its growth and stability.
The Airline Pilots Guild of Sri Lanka, the SriLankan Airlines branch of the Nidahas Sevaka Sangamaya, the Flight Attendants Union, Executive Association of SriLankan Airlines, SriLankan Airlines Aircraft Technicians Association and the Aircraft Engineers Guild of SriLankan Airlines were among the unions in the alliance.
The objectives include ensuring access to information and transparency in all dealings of the airline by the management, highlighting any acts of waste or corruption within the carrier, guaranteeing growth and stability of the airline and jointly working in all matters which are in its best interest.
Meanwhile, President of the Nidahas Sevaka Sangamay, Srilankan Airlines, Janaka Vijayapathirathna asserted that one of the collectives’ priorities was the sustainability of the airline.
“We feel the airline must be brought to a stable position. Our priority is the sustainability of SriLankan Airlines. Starting from the appointment of officials, they must be aimed at commercial policies and not political. Transparency is key.”
He further pointed out that while a complete closure of the airline was a possible option for the Government, it was financially unviable.
“Closing down SriLankan would not be a simple task financially. Does the Government have the resources to close it down? The Government would have to pay employee compensation, repay bank loans. It will have a major impact on the economy as well as it will greatly impact the tourism industry,” he said, noting that if the carrier is shut down, other international carriers would enter the local market, depriving the economy of much needed foreign exchange revenue.