Ministers take credit as Jet reinstates staff (Round-Up)

October 17th, 2008 - 4:43 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi/Mumbai, Oct 17 (IANS) Thousands of employees of Jet Airways, who were shown pink slips, were celebrating Friday after chairman Naresh Goyal decided to reinstate each one of them, even as some ministers scrambled to take credit for the airline’s volte-face.“We’re so thrilled,” said crew member Geetika (who uses only one name) outside the domestic airport in New Delhi, as her colleagues in Mumbai and the national capital were seen jumping, clapping and rejoicing the late-night decision.

“I don’t mind working at a lower salary as long as my future is secure,” Gilles Singh, a flight attendant, said, adding he and his family had taken a home loan and were extremely worried over paying the instalments.

The reactions came after Jet Airways said all the 8,500 employees on probation who were asked not to work were being reinstated even as the move to shed some 11,500 more was summarily retracted.

Opposition parties, led by the Left, were also proposing to raise the issue on the opening day of post-recess monsoon session of parliament Friday in a bid to embarrass the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

“The employees have been asked to return to work from today (Friday). They will soon be given official letters, asking them to rejoin,” a Jet Airways official said in New Delhi.

Hours after the statement by Goyal, who said he could not bear to see tears in the eyes of his staff, both Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel and Labour Minister Oscar Fernandes sought to suggest that their interventions had helped.

Patel appreciated Goyal’s gesture and said he had made a similar request to him and his airline’s management Thursday morning.

“I welcome the move,” he beamed, just hours after having said: “My sympathies are with those employees laid off by the private airlines but this is an issue that other ministries such as the labour ministry will have to deal with.”

But Friday saw him singing an altogether different tune. “I’m happy people have got back their jobs. I had spoken to Mr. Goyal last night (Thursday night) on this issue. I’m glad that they have reversed their decision.”

Even Fernandes, who had earlier remarked that he had no clue about the sacking, only to order a probe by the labour commissioner later, said his view was that no person should be sacked in such a manner.

“We felt that whatever be the financial condition of the company, we would not like anybody to leave the company or for them to be removed from the service. We would like everybody to start working from tomorrow,” he said.

Petroleum Minister Murli Deora, who had taken exception to Patel’s remarks that his ministry was doing little to help the troubled aviation ministry, had termed the Jet Airways’ earlier move unfortunate.

“This is not the right time to retrench people, particularly before Diwali,” he told reporters in New Delhi. “I do not approve of such a move and you cannot just do such a thing,” he said.

“I will appeal to Naresh Goyal to please not resort to such extreme steps.”

The Jet Airways chairman, who had announced the unpopular decision in Hyderabad Wednesday night after forging a strategic and operational agreement with rival Kingfisher Airlines, said he was giving in to his conscience.

“I request all of you to start work from tomorrow. We stand by all employees,” Goyal said at a press conference in Mumbai late Thursday. “I could not see tears in the eyes of my employees. I could not sleep when I saw what happened.”

He said the financial woes faced by my company due to poor aviation business led to the termination of these employees and that he had neither spoken to his team nor anyone for that matter while deciding to reinstate the retrenched staff.

“Cost cutting has to be done but we will stand by our employees. My management might not like it but I have taken the decision from my conscience.”

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