Sri Lanka to fast track ‘SriLankan’ privatisation

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The government expects to complete the restructuring process of the national carrier, SriLankan Airlines (SA) by the year end, Minister of Ports, Shipping and Aviation Nimal Siripala de Silva, said yesterday.

 “…so that its debt of Rs 315 billion is no longer a burden to the people of this country.” he said.

Speaking to SA Trade Unions he emphasised that he has already informed the SA management that the restructuring process would not allow forcible termination of any employee and that they would be proposing voluntary retirement scheme with a golden handshake.

Representatives of several its trade unions including Sri Lankan Nidahas Sevaka Sangamaya, SriLankan Catering Company, SriLankan Executive Officers’ Association, Ground Handling Officers’ Association and Aircraft Technicians’ Association participated in the discussion.

Speaking further the Minister pointed out that a large amount of tax-money which could have been utilised for the development of this country has been spent to maintain this airline which has been a white elephant for quite a while.

The Minister said in the face of the current economic crisis, maintaining this institution with public funds is an injustice to the country as a whole.

“Therefore, we must all fundamentally accept the need to restructure SriLankan Airlines” he said.

The Minister said a feasible model should be set up to restructure the airline and that it would be highly appreciated if investors would come forward to take over the airline.

He said that no matter what model of restructuring is proposed, the programme should be designed in such a way that workers’ rights are not violated.

Minister also said the restructuring plan of the company would be discussed with the trade unions and then the proposal would be presented to the Cabinet and the Parliament in a transparent manner.

“The Minister pointed out that at present SA does not have a single aircraft and that all of its (21) aircraft are running on lease contracts. He also said the licences and facilities provided to us by the countries as well as the trained and efficient employees of SA are the capital of this company and therefore it should be restructured taking these factors into consideration.

He said he had already discussed the matter with the Board of Directors of SA.

The Minister also said he had requested the Board of Directors of SA to submit their recommendations on restructuring within two weeks with the assistance of all major stakeholders.

The Minister said he had received reliable information that the top management of SA was a burden to the company and that it could reduce costs through revamping personnel management and restructuring, adding that the proposals and ideas put forward by SA and its trade unions would be duly considered in the restructuring process.

By Ishara Gamage