Pilots of Jet Airways, one of the leading private airlines in the country, reported “sick” en masse in early December, to protest the non-payment of salaries and other dues. As a result Jet Airways was forced to cancel at least 14 flights on December 3.
According to news reports, the airline has not paid its pilots and engineers their salaries since the month of August. While it claims to have paid some of the staff claimed partially in September, the full salaries have not been paid to the workers for the months of October and November.
The protesting pilots are also trying to put pressure on the management to pay their salaries and dues, through the National Aviator’s Guild, a domestic pilots’ organisation of Jet Airways, representing over 1,000 pilots.
Jet Airways is reported to be going through a severe financial crisis, some of the reasons for which have been stated as rising fuel costs, rupee devaluation and competition from other domestic and international airlines. Among other things, it is reported to be heavily defaulting on payments due for the planes it has leased. State Bank of India had announced earlier this year that the airline was on its stressed loans list. Several aircraft are reported to have been grounded and flight operations on many routes have been suspended.
Shifting the burden of the crisis on to the backs of the workers, as is typical for all capitalist companies, the management of Jet Airways has withheld salaries and other dues of hundreds of pilots and engineering staff. It is also reported to be resorting to large-scale retrenchment of staff. Many employees at the managerial level and engineering staff have been terminated in recent months.
The protest action by the pilots of Jet Airways is thus a resistance to this growing attack on their livelihood and rights.