Raj Thackeray threatens Jet Airways, wants sacked staff reinstated (Second Lead)

October 15th, 2008 - 6:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Raj ThackerayMumbai, Oct 15 (IANS) Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray will ground Jet Airways if it does not reinstate the near-800 employees it laid off Tuesday night, the party said here Wednesday.The decision was taken after about 200 Jet employees met Thackeray Wednesday morning seeking his intervention in the matter, a party spokesman told IANS.

Thackeray’s representatives will meet the Jet Airways management Thursday to discuss the issue.

The spokesman said if the airline did not absorb the retrenched employees, Thackeray would not allow Jet to operate in Mumbai or the rest of Maharashtra.

The employees, who had been camping outside Thackeray’s Shivaji Park residence since early Wednesday morning, alleged that the airline terminated their services without serving termination letters or compensation.

A majority of the employees, who have come for employment from out of Mumbai, said that they had availed of huge loans from family members or friends to complete their aviation industry study and training courses, which they will not be able to repay.

Many of them, seen weeping outside Thackeray’s residence at Shivaji Park, said they were the only breadwinners and that their families would now be reduced to starvation.

A majority of these employees have been in the service of the company for less than six months, with a few receiving their termination letters Wednesday morning that were couriered Tuesday evening.

“What the hell do they think of themselves? No prior warning, no notice!” screamed a member of the airline’s airport staff, who alleged her services were terminated with just a short message (SMS) on mobile phone.

Another, who was still wearing the airline’s bright yellow uniform, said reports that they were given a month’s notice were without basis and that no one from the management had bothered to talk to them.

The decision on retrenchment resulted after Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines announced a code-sharing and operational alliance late Tuesday in a bid to cut costs and remain in the black with shared ground handling, flight crew and training of crew.

Speaking to reporters in Hyderabad at the ongoing air show, Jet Airways founder Naresh Goyal denied that his airline had laid off permanent employees or was going to do that.

“The people laid off were probationary employees and there will be no retrenchment of permanent employees,” he said, adding: “Our employees are our family and we will take care of all of them.”

The airline also issued a statement saying the airline had been watching the situation for some time in the hope that it may turn around, but had reached a stage at which some hard decisions are inevitable.

“As a consequence, personnel hired for the expansion, probationers and unconfirmed personnel - who have been recently hired - will have to be released,” the airline said.

“As a first step, around 800 flight attendants, recently recruited for the planned expansion programme, which has now been suspended, have been released. We are in the process of releasing personnel in other categories also.”

The airline said the $6 billion Indian aviation industry was expected to lose $2 billion in 2008-09, with operations affected by high fuel prices, downturn in traffic and the global financial crisis.

Jet and Kingfisher, along with their acquired airlines, have a combined strength of 19,000 employees, a fleet of 189 aircraft serving 1,009 daily flights, of which 82 are on international routes.

According to industry sources, this was the third time in recent months that Jet had cut its workforce. Some 1,200 employees were given the pink slip after the carrier acquired Air Sahara last year followed by a separation pact with another 700 a couple of months ago.

Kingfisher, too, had initiated similar moves, albeit at a much truncated level.

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