Vol. 5 Num 1086 Thu. June 21, 2007  
Front Page

Over 2,100 Biman staff want to quit voluntarily

The number of retirement seeking Bangladesh Biman officials and employees far exceeded the airline's target as 2,140 persons responded to the Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) as of yesterday, the last day of applications for the programme.

Authorities were still receiving applications from respondents working at the Biman stations outside Dhaka when this report was being filed at 9:30pm, Biman sources said.

On June 5, the Biman offered the VRS in order to trim its staff to 3,400 from existing 4,800.

The scheme is part of the government's plan to turn the national flag carrier into a public limited company (PLC) and make it a healthy and profitable commercial venture.

A committee will start scrutinising the respondents' applications from today to decide which applications will be accepted.

Seven out of 13 aircraft of Biman Bangladesh Airlines are now in operation, sources said.

"We are trying to bring Man-Equipment Ratio (MER) [ratio of aircraft to manpower] of Biman to a reasonable level to reduce its expenses by 40 to 45 per cent," Biman Managing Director Dr MA Momen earlier told The Daily Star.

Against the 'acceptable' ratio of 1:200, Biman's MER at present is 1:367 while Singapore Airlines' MER is 1:152, Malaysian Airlines' MER is 1:146 and Emirates' MER is 1: 294.

"Biman will try to ensure that its skilled officials and employees do not go into retirement under this scheme. We will not let anyone leave the job if it is considered necessary for Biman," said Biman Managing Director Dr MA Momen.

Of the eight directorates of Biman, staffs and officials of engineering directorate responded largely to VRS.

While 170 staffs out of 192 from Biman Flight Catering Centre responded to VRS, Biman sources said.

Details of the respondents, however, could not be received as of filing this report.

"The steps that the Biman has taken are positive, and if those are implemented, Biman will regain its past image," said Abdul Hamid, a respondent to the VRS.

Many Biman staffs said they had accepted the VRS as they got benefit under the programme.

However, some others said they had no other option to respond to the VRS as the Biman authorities had pressurised them.

Besides, it was not clear what would happen if they did not respond to the VRS, they said.

"I feared that they would fire me if I do not respond to VRS. Then I would not get any benefit," said Golam Sarwar, a class four employee of the Biman.

The Council of Advisers on May 20 approved a proposal to turn Biman Bangladesh Airlines into a PLC by June.

Under the VRS scheme, Biman offered special packages to its employees whose service period exceeded five years.

Implementation of the scheme will require Tk about 297 crore and the World Bank has already provided the amount to the government, Dr MA Momen earlier said.

A company board would be formed comprising the organisations that will take all decisions regarding the Biman.

The caretaker government is set to complete the process of turning Bangladesh Biman into a PLC by June 30 and appoint an operator for managing the airline.

Biman Bangladesh Airlines will be renamed Bangladesh Airlines after its turning into a PLC.

The new operator must be a well-managed airline like Singapore Airlines or Thai Airlines but that will be appointed through open tender, said MA Matin, adviser for communications, shipping and civil aviation ministries.

The draft of the proposal for turning the public sector corporation into a public limited company was finalised at an inter-ministerial meeting yesterday. The proposal would be placed before the advisory council meeting on Saturday, Matin told the journalists after the meeting.

The inter-ministerial meeting also finalised the draft of the memorandum of association and memorandum of articles of the new company while the government would promulgate an ordinance in this regard after approval of the advisory council.

After becoming a public limited company the airline would be free from government control, he said. The airline will purchase new aircraft or collect aircraft on lease on the basis of the operator's suggestion for reviving the ailing organisation.

In the first phase the government will hold 100 per cent share of the new company but later up to 49 per cent share of will be off-loaded, Matin said.

Seven to eleven directors -- all from secretary-level government officials -- will operate the company that will be later registered with the registrar of joint stock companies.

The government would bear long-term and short-term liabilities of the Biman, and the new company would start with zero liabilities, the adviser said.

Civil Aviation Secretary Sheikh Altaf Ali and representatives from ministries concerned were present at the inter-ministerial meeting.