Unhappy Jet Pilots May go for Legal Recourse, Strike likely

India News

Pilots of Jet Airways, who are all set to stop flying from April 1, will meet today for a final decision on the strike, a senior National Aviators Guild (NAG) member said.

The pilots had earlier decided to go on a strike starting April 1 after arrears of 1,100 Jet pilots, which have accumulated over the past few months, were not disbursed even after the bank funding.

The management of Jet Airways Ltd, in response, could only manage to cut a sorry figure and came up with lame excuses.

Its CEO wrote to the employees on March 30 committing that the pilots would be paid only their ‘December’ salaries from the interim funding.

“These [bank-led resolution process] are complex processes and it has taken longer than we had expected and as such we are only able to remit your remaining salary for December, 2018. We realise that this remittance does not lift the financial hardship that each of you are facing and we do not take your sacrifices for granted,” Vinay Dube, CEO, Jet Airways, in an email has said.

The CEO adds further that they are working on resolving the crisis. He has stated in the email-

“You also have our commitment that the board of directors and the management team are working as fast as possible to implement the resolution plan agreed with the consortium of Indian lenders to quickly restore the much-needed stability to our operations and build a sustainable future for the airline,”

“Our Pilots, AMEs and senior management team in particular have persevered despite the adverse personal and financial impact it has had on each individual and their respective families. We understand the hardship, anxiety and uncertainty which each of you have endured and for that you have our deepest, heartfelt gratitude.”

In such an attempt to assuage the concerns of the pilots and other employees of the airline, the management presents itself in a hopeless situation. It does not own the responsibility of its failures.

The airline’s fleet strength has already been reduced to one-third. Jet Airways no longer commands the same credibility among its lessors, vendors, lenders and its customers. Most of its planes have been grounded due to non-payment of lease rentals.

It took almost three-months time for the bank consortium led by State Bank of India (SBI) to decide on the aid the debt-ridden airline by converting their debt into equity. With these shares the banks now control the decision making process. In exchange of these shares the banks, as an interim measure, has decided to give an interim funding of Rs 1,500 crore to keep the Jet operations. This has been proved to be too little and too late.

“While this is a positive statement we are not sure this is enough. We will first see the amount that is credited to our accounts as we have to take care of our families and future. Not all pilots may agree on calling off the strike or going on the strike. To keep the process democratic, the NAG will hold a meeting today to take a final call,” the NAG member said.

Options before the pilots.

For the strike.

The pilots may look for jobs elsewhere, take legal action against Jet and claim arrears. The pilots may take recourse to labour laws, including recovery proceedings against the company for salary, allowances and benefits. Joining duty is ruled out. There is no assurance that the situation will ever improve. With just one-third of fleet available, the Company is in no position to earn enough revenue which can clear its mountain of current liabilities.

The pilots’ union has made it clear that the partial payout is not acceptable. They maintain that they would stop flying from April 1 if full dues are not settled. The pilots can not be blamed.

The Company has already started telling its employees, “We will pay you when we will start earning.”

This is the last nail in the coffin. In other words, this statement implies that the Company will never recover. It is pleading its employees to work for free.

Against the strike.

The pilots may resume duties if they do not have other alternative.

In both the situations, Jet Airways’ management has very little options left. Even if someone puts in Rs 15,000 million, it will be like a drop in the ocean. The same Rs 15,000 million, if invested elsewhere, can yield better returns, and if necessary, it can produce another Jet Airways.

Against such a gloomy scenario, the patience of Jet Airways pilots appears to be running out. Though, the airline hopes to restore some of these grounded planes, with the interim funding to keep the operations going, it’s recovery does not appear possible in near future given the present state of affairs at Jet’s management.