Outside Mumbai’s Jet Airways office, some employees stood with bleary eyes, having just completed their night shift, while others turned up in uniform, unsure if they had to report for the day shift. After a discussion Thursday afternoon, most agreed on two things — to continue working in the hope that flight operations would resume and to abstain from voting for any political party in the Lok Sabha election.
“Employees have been urging the Prime Minister’s Office to intervene and rescue the airlines. We are getting no response. We have decided to vote for NOTA or not vote at all,” said Tina John, who has worked at the international terminal’s check-in counter for the last 10 years. Tina and her husband Vishal, who works with Jet’s revenue department, have not received their March salaries. “I am taking financial help from my father, but for how long?” she asks.
Ground operations staffer Amina Shaikh has decided to cancel a trip to Goa to cast her vote. “Several of my colleagues have decided they will not vote. We are spreading the word. If political parties don’t care to save our jobs, why should we even vote?” She has not paid her rent. “In a few days, I will not have money for transportation to work,” she said.
On Wednesday, Jet’s management told its staff that it was forced to stop all international and domestic operations after it didn’t receive interim funding of Rs 983 crore from lenders to pay for fuel and critical operations. Salaries alone amount to Rs 230 crore.
A human resources official said the company saw at least 2,000 employees quit since October. Of 14,500 employees left, there are 1,500 pilots, 3,000 cabin crew members, 5,000 ground operation staff, 2,000 technical staff and 3,000 management officials. MLA Kiran Pawaskar, president of the All India Jet Airways Officers and Staff Association, who met the management, said the issue was not just about employees but also contractors such as Sky Gourmet, drivers and suppliers.
“At least one lakh people depend on Jet Airways for running their households. We request the PMO to bring about a solution.” Stating that other private airlines have hiked their fares, Pawaskar said it is the government’s responsibility even though Jet is a private company. “Our employees will keep working. They want Jet Airways to start operating again,” he said.
Calling Naresh Goyal’s resignation as chairman an act of “corporate war”, Pawaskar demanded an inquiry. “Why have SBI-led lenders not provided Rs 1,500 crore funding as promised after Goyal stepped down? We have employees who have worked here for 40 years. Who will provide them with a job?” he asked.
Referring to Kingfisher Airline’s Vijay Mallya, Pawaskar said the Indian government keeps naming those who ran away with money, “But why is the bank not aiding those who stayed in India and did not run anywhere?”