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Rediff.com  » Business » Jet ground staff asks pilots to return, strike still on

Jet ground staff asks pilots to return, strike still on

Last updated on: September 10, 2009 19:58 IST

Even as the talks between Jet Airways and its protesting pilots were deadlocked, with neither party deciding to withdraw from its position, the ground handlers at the airline appealed to the pilots to call off the strike.

More than 230 flights were cancelled giving passengers a harrowing time.

Pilots have indicated that they would continue their agitation against sacking of two of their colleagues after no headway was made in the discussions between the two sides till late Wednesday night with the protestors also insisting that their trade union rights cannot be curtailed.

The stalemate continued despite five hours of talks between members of the National Aviators Guild (NAG), which is spearheading the stir, and the management through an interlocutor in Delhi. The company does not recognise NAG and has termed the agitation as illegal.

"We have cancelled 197 domestic and 37 international flights today," Jet Airways General Manager (Flight Operations), E Sainath said in Mumbai.

Guild's Joint General Secretary and one of the sacked Jet pilots Capt Sam Thomas told PTI that "The deadlock continues. There is nothing to say. No one has approached us for talks."

Capt Thomas claimed that overall 500 pilots have reported sick.

Amid continued stir by the pilots, the management of the airlines on Thursday presented its point of view to the Labour department which is trying to bring about conciliation between the two sides.

Saroj Dutta, executive director of Jet Airways, held an about three-hour-long meeting with chief labour commissioner S K Mukhopadhyay, apprising him about the management's stand.

After the meeting, Dutta said the discussions remained inconclusive and would resume tomorrow. He noted that nobody from the pilots' side had come for the meeting. Both Jet Airways pilots and management had approached Joint Labour Commissioner in Mumbai and he is in the process of reconciliation.

Jet cancelled international flights on South East Asia sector to Bangkok, Hong Kong and Singapore. Its services to Gulf countries, the US and Europe, to which flights were operated on Wednesday, were also badly affected. Jet has also cancelled its flight to Dubai, Muscat, Kuwait, the US and Europe.

Jet Airways chief Naresh Goyal had on Wednesday given a veiled warning to the agitators that the company could hire foreign pilots to tide over the situation.

Asked if Jet Airways would think of recruiting foreign pilots, he had said, "Yes, we will request the government authorities. There are enough pilots available in the world."

He had also threatened disciplinary action against pilots, if they did not follow the law of the land.

Jet is contemplating seeking DGCA approval for inducting some spare pilots of its wholly owned subsidiary, JetLite, into its own fleet to tide over the situation.

A Jet Airways spokesperson on Thursday said, "Due to continued pilot agitation, disruptions are expected on the Jet Airways network and consequently, certain flights have been cancelled. On disrupted flights, guests will get full refund or they can reissue/rebook flights without any penalty," a Jet Airways spokesperson said.

Jet Airways is making alternative arrangements on other airlines wherever possible and the airport teams of the airlines will assist its guests to the fullest extent, she said.

The airlines has also tried to accommodate its passengers in its low-cost arm Jetlite. The airlines management has combined 12 Jet flights with JetLite.

To deal with the situation, the airlines has set up a crisis management centre which is continuously monitoring the situation.

At the crisis centre, a team of 15 personnel from planning, revenue management and public relations is working round-the-clock to reschedule various flights and monitor the situation, the airline said.

Meanwhile, extending support to Jet Airways management, ground staff of the airline on Thursday issued an emotional appeal to the protesting pilots asking them to return to work.

"We want this strike to be withdrawn because it is affecting not only the airline but us also. The future of families depend on this as the company is losing revenue as well as passengers' trust," Surender Sharma, a representative of the ground staff, told reporters.

Jagjeet Kaur, another ground staff, said, "We want this agitation to come to an end today itself. We have been working as a team and now after two days of the strike, the future of 13,000 non-pilot employees is at stake."

"600 pilots are withdrawing salary which amounts to 40 per cent of the company's revenue. But they are forgetting the rest of us," Kaur said.

The ground staff also asked the pilots to put forward their grievances in the right manner.

Ashwini, a customer-care supervisor, said earlier they were operating 47 flights out of Delhi but today they had operated just one.

"We have landed in such a situation due to 600 pilots. Nobody is thinking about the company," he said.

Another loader supervisor Rajesh Kumar appealed to the pilots to withdraw the strike. "We are apprehensive about our future as the Jet Chairman has said that he will close the company. What will happen to our families," he said.

There are 3,000 ground staff of the airlines at Delhi airport, Kumar said, and asked the striking pilots to think about the future of their families.

Shikha, a duty manager, said that due to the stir, loyal passengers were now using the service of other airlines. The ground staff extended their support to chairman Naresh Goyal, saying he was with them during the good times and they are now with him during this bad time.

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