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70 Jet engineers report ‘sick’ after colleague asked to resign

The airline management withdrew its decision after the protest by engineers.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Feb 08, 2019, 03.00 PM IST
MUMBAI: About 70 of Jet Airways’ aircraft maintenance engineers (AME) reported “sick” at airports across the country on Thursday after the airline sent HR professionals to convince one of them to tender a resignation.

The AME in question was based in Madurai, a station to which Jet will stop operating later this week. The airline will also drop Raipur from its operations. It has also decided to stop flying to four destinations in the northeast: Silchar, Aizawl, Jorhat and Imphal.

The airline management withdrew its decision after the protest by engineers, leading them to join work soon after. This led to some delays in flight movements, but no cancellations, said people in the know.

The call for resignation, one of the persons cited above said, happened despite an agreement in 2017 in which all engineers forfeited a bunch of incentives amounting to Rs 80 lakh a month in return for an assurance “that they wouldn’t be touched”.

“The HR personnel flew to Madurai and told the AME to resign. If he didn’t, he would be given a termination letter which would be a ‘black mark’ on his career. His colleagues immediately sprang to action, and 20 of them in Mumbai airport reported sick in the afternoon schedule. Others in Delhi, Bengaluru airports joined in,” said the person.

On the changes in network, a Jet spokesperson said ““All airlines review their network from time to time and late last year and as shared earlier, Jet Airways undertook a comprehensive review of its network, moving capacity to more profitable routes, to closely align the capacity offered with the demand characteristics of specific markets. As a result, even as the airline decided to withdraw from 7 domestic destinations, it launched as many as 65 additional weekly frequencies for greater economies of scale at other stations, strengthening its network over hubs at Mumbai and Delhi. Guest inconvenience was minimal and was handled in line with regulatory guidelines, since the airline’s schedule was pre-adjusted several weeks ago for these changes,”

On other questions on the engineers reporting sick after one of them was asked to resign, he said the airline wouldn’t comment “on speculation”.

The engineers will again meet the management on Monday for further discussions on the issue.

The move underlines simmering tension between Jet Airways and its employees whom it hasn’t paid for months. Jet, facing a financial crisis, has delayed salaries, defaulted on loan repayments, and has failed to pay aircraft lease rentals on time.

The carrier also grounded planes and trimmed operations. It is now running two and a quarter months behind in salary payments. Jet has promised its employees that it will clear arrears by April.

Engineers aren’t the only ones who are running out of patience; even pilots of the airline met earlier this week in Mumbai to discuss “a future course of action”. They will soon meet in Delhi. “We are paying taxes, but not getting salaries. This has now gone out of hand,” a senior Jet pilot said.

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