Minister warns 6000 jobs will be lost if SriLankan Airlines is not restructured immediately
Sun, Jul 2, 2023, 11:44 am SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.
July 02, Colombo: Minister of Ports, Shipping and Aviation Nimal Siripala de Silva said that there is a risk of losing the jobs of about 6000 employees of SriLankan Airlines if it is not restructured immediately.
The Minister pointed out that the government cannot continue to maintain the SriLankan Airlines, which is continuously losing money, and it is unfair to continue wasting taxpayers’ money.
Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said steps have already been taken to get the support of international financial experts to carry out the work related to the restructuring of SriLankan Airlines, and it is the government’s aim to carry out the work in a very transparent manner.
Addressing a press conference organized at the Presidential Media Center on Friday (30) under the theme ‘One way to a stable country’, Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva noted that SriLankan Airlines, which started decades ago as the national carrier, is Sri Lanka’s own unique airline.
He pointed out that during the period when Emirates Airlines administered SriLankan Airlines, it managed to make a profit of 30 million rupees. Apart from that, SriLankan Airlines has not been able to earn any profit so far.
“This airline is maintained by the tax money of the common people of this country, from the person who has never seen an airplane, who has never set foot in an airplane. We are proud to have our own national airline. But today the question arises whether the amount paid for that honor is reasonable.”
“As of today, SriLankan Airlines has a debt of US$ 1.2 billion. Several institutions including local state banks have had to pay the arrears for international bonds and leased aircraft. Also, we have to pay for the fuel that we got without paying money. It is not possible to run an airline in debt like this,” the Minister stressed.
“Due to the economic problem including the foreign exchange crisis in the country, the government is not able to provide money as usual when it is incurring losses. It is not fair to give like that. That is why it was decided to restructure the SriLankan Airlines. The restructuring is done by keeping 51% shares under the government. It has been decided to give 49% to another investor.”
Minister Nimal Siripala said the proposal on the restructuring process of SriLankan Airlines was presented to the Cabinet six months ago. Some profits are made from ground operations of SriLankan Airlines and SriLankan Catering Company. But it is not enough to cover the losses of the airline.
“Therefore, considering whether it is necessary to sell the shares of SriLankan Airlines separately and the memorandum submitted to the cabinet, the series of proposals prepared has been forwarded to international financial experts through the Ministry of Finance. We work with transparency to get the maximum benefit we can get from this.”
The Minister said the restructuring of SriLankan Airlines is expected to be completed at least within the next six months.
“After that it will be handed over to the relevant investor with conditions to protect the employees’ rights and we hope to improve the airline through the investment.”
If this work is not done immediately, there is a risk of losing the jobs of around 6000 employees of SriLankan Airlines, the Minister cautioned.
“With the Covid epidemic, not only in our country, but in the whole world, the airline services collapsed. Tourists did not come to the countries. Many countries in the world had to park their planes in the airport. In such a situation, seventy two pilots of Qatar Airways were even removed. But the government arranged to give half of the salary to our airline employees. Pilots were paid the same wages even if they were at home. The government acted with such humanitarian attitude.”
“After the Covid disaster, there was an Aragalaya (struggle) in the country. Tourists did not come to Sri Lanka. But the government led by President Ranil Wickremesinghe was able to overcome all those challenges and bring tourists back to our country through SriLankan Airlines. Accordingly, tourists started coming to Sri Lanka day by day,” Minister de Silva noted.
Answering a question raised by a journalist regarding the restructuring of domestic debt, the Minister said the opposition always used to spread false propaganda.
“The opposition has made a fool of themselves by making predictions before knowing the correct information. They said that the banking system would collapse, and that the benefits of the Employee Provident Fund would be lost. Many such false propaganda were spread. But experts in the financial sector say that there is no harm to the people. The Domestic Debt Restructuring Act will be passed in Parliament with a simple majority.”