Air India pilot unions object to director's continuation due to 'conflict of interest'

Mumbai: Air India‘s pilot unions IPG and ICPA on Monday urged the airline to replace its Director (Commercial) Meenakshi Mallik alleging that her continuation on the post amounts to “conflict of interest” as she has submitted bid for the company as head of the employee consortium. Replying to the allegation, Mallik told she has already recused from the board meet on disinvestment, and is involved only in the day-to-day functioning of the airline.

“On November 30, I wrote to the chairman and the board that I am participating in the bids, I will recuse myself from the board whenever any discussion pertaining to the disinvestment comes up,” Mallik said.

Stating that she is involved only in the day-to-day functioning of the airline, Mallik said, “I have no idea about the letter. As far as putting bids is concerned, the Government of India has given me the rights to bid and I am only following that.”

Mallik said that in the preliminary information memorandum (PIM) issued on January 20 last year, the government allows participation of the full-time directors at the airline in the bidding process.

On December 14, which was the deadline for submitting bids, the government said it had received multiple expressions of interest for the strategic disinvestment of Air India. But, it did not disclose the participant names. However, sources had said that Tata Sons, a group of Air India employees headed by Mallik and a US-based firm Interups Inc had put in bids.

In a joint letter to Air India Chairman and Managing Director Rajiv Bansal on Monday, the two pilot unions said: “This is with reference to the office order… dated December 16 through which it has been acknowledged that a consortium of management employees has submitted a bid for strategic disinvestment of Air India.”

They added that the office order, issued with the CMD’s approval, directs all participating employees to inform the headquarters and expressly forbids them from handling any policy or strategic matter with a direct or indirect bearing to the disinvestment of Air India.

Stating that the management consortium is being headed by Mallik, the unions said, “In her position as the head of the commercial department, it is clear that she has access to insider information about our entire network and business plan both current as well as the future.”

The letter mentioned that her decisions as head of the commercial department directly affect the health of the airline and consequently, its market worth to potential bidders. “There is a gaping conflict of interest here,” it added.

“As a commercial director I am trying to get the maximum revenue for the airline as its commercial director. I am being targeted because I am helping the government get best sale for the company,” Mallik said.

The unions also said if she does justice to her current role, the airline does well and generates more market interest as well as direct competition for her bid for the disinvestment. “Alternatively, the potential misuse of insider information to actively sabotage the functioning of the airline and stave off market interest cannot be overlooked.”

“We therefore strongly urge you to follow through this office order in letter and spirit and immediately replace her as well as any other key management employee bidders holding such a sensitive position,” the Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) and the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) stated in the letter to the CMD.

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