Kingfisher Airlines owes 3,000 employees Rs 300 crore in salary
While banks grapple with Vijay Mallya in court, over 3000 employees of his defunct carrier Kingfisher Airlines still haven't got their salaries.
The number includes 900 employees who are still, on paper, employed with the airline and about 2000 more who left since 2015. The salary arrears, mounting since 2012, work out to more than Rs 300 crore.
Many of these employees, especially ground staff, technicians and engineers, are still unemployed. ET couldn't ascertain the number of people without jobs. Almost all the pilots have been absorbed by other airlines while a lot of cabin crew sought employment in shopping malls and hotels at a fraction of the salaries they were getting with the airline. A few months earlier, ET had spoken to Sujit Ghosh, a former technician with the airline in Kolkata who now makes a living out of selling garments stitched by his wife. There are many such examples and that’s why Kingfisher employees are still extremely bitter about their former employer.
In a recent 'open letter', the women employees of the airline said "exploitation is in your blood, that's why you are talking about one-time settlement with only banks and not employees".
They said people who have joined new companies are not able to get income tax refunds as the I-T department keeps adjusting it against tax dues which wasn't submitted by Kingfisher. They also said Kingfisher kept depositing provident fund but not salaries. “You issued us tax sheet (in lieu of form-16) for the full year 2012-13, but have paid us only till June 2012.”
In a previous letter from all employees, Mallya was told he has “blood in his hands.” The letter questioned why criminal proceedings hadn't been initiated. “We are still not able to understand what you meant when you said 'I don’t have money to pay your salaries' while the spree continues, be it the Caribbean Premier League or luxury yachts," they said in the letter. Mallya bought a team called Barbados Tridents in the cricket tournament in West Indies. Kingfisher shut down operations in 2012 due to cash and credit issues. It sank with total dues of more than $2 billion to banks, taxmen, employees, leasing companies, airports and other business associates.
Banks have been chasing Mallya to get back more than Rs 7,000 crore. They have filed court cases against him, most recently after Diageo-owned United Spirits offered him a severance package of $75 million (Rs 515 crore). Mallya has said the actual dues to banks are much less and that he's been trying to reach an out-of-court settlement with the lenders.