After going soft on the management for over the past few months on pending salaries, Jet Airways domestic pilots body, the National Aviators Guild, on Tuesday threatened to take legal recourse if the dues are not cleared by early next week. Meanwhile, the Jet Airways board is likely to meet in Mumbai Wednesday and discuss the latest development, said an airline source.
"The Jet Airways board will have its meeting in Mumbai where it is expected to discuss the operational issues besides the appointment of (former SBI chief) A K Purwar as new chairman," the source said. In another development, airline chief executive Vinay Dube, in a communication to the staff, said the management "continues to work with the consortium of lenders on the resolution plan." In a legal notice to Dube, the guild that claims membership of around 1,100 domestic pilots, said each day they are left worried as salary arrears keep piling up.
Pilots along with engineers and senior executives have not been paid for the last three months amid cash-crunch in the airline that began last July, and saw an ownership change last month with banks taking majority shares and founder chairman Naresh Goyal leaving the airline and halving his stake-holding in the airline. Along with these staff, the airline has defaulted on the payment of March salaries to other employees as well.
While delaying salaries of its entire 16,000 workforce for the third time since last September, on April 3, the airline had informed employees of providing an update on April 9. But the management today had nothing concrete to share. "My client (NAG) calls upon the management to pay their salaries dues for January, February and March, by April 14 and future salaries by the first of every month. Failing which my client shall be constrained to resort to all constitutional and legal means to get their salaries," read the legal notice.
Late March, the guild had warned of a "no flying call" from April 1 over delayed salaries, which they had deferred to April 14. "Non-payment of salaries is leading to extreme stress, anxiety and frustration amongst the pilots--hardly an ideal situation for them to be in the cockpits. It hardly needs to be said passenger safety--the prime concern of all--requires pilots fly stress-free," said the legal notice.
Acute financial crunch has forced the airline to ground three-fourths of its fleet, leading to massive flight cancellations and delaying all payments including salaries. Stating Jet is focused on securing an interim funding to sustain, and eventually increase its current level of operations, Dube in the letter to the staff said the highest priority is to get more planes flying and to pay salaries.
The focus is also on "supporting the bank-led balance sheet restructuring efforts to bring in fresh equity into the airline," he added. SBI, which is the lead lender of a consortium of domestic lenders that has extended loans to Jet, Monday invited bids from strategic as well as financial bidders for stake sale in ailing carrier.
"Both these processes are complex and taking longer than what everyone expected. However, please be assured that we continue to work closely with the lenders in a constructive manner for a resolution of our situation," Dube said. While there have been impediments to the process, the airline is navigating around them to secure the funding that it needs, as soon as possible, he added.
(With inputs from agencies.)