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India: Jet Airways Vs. Pilots Continues

Turmoil at Jet Airways could trigger labour unrest in other India's airlines

Sep 10, 2009

MUMBAI - A deadlock between the management of India's Jet Airways and its pilots over sacking of four of their colleagues forced the airline to cancel 200 flights on Thursday, with no signs of a breakthrough, officials said.

"There are no talks being held right now. The management is not talking," Sam Thomas, the general secretary of National Aviators' Guild (NAG), a Jet Airways pilots' union said.

Shares of Jet Airways, India's second largest airline by market share, were down 1.79 percent by mid-trade in a firm Mumbai market.

More than half of the airline's 760 pilots, banned from striking without informing the airline's management in advance, have reported sick since Tuesday, forcing the cancellation of flights and affecting at least 14,000 passengers.

An airline spokeswoman said part of their cargo operations have also been affected.

The strike is seen as an example of touchy labour relations in a country where archaic labour laws place myriad limits on hiring and conditions for retrenchment, hurting competitiveness and leading to worker unrest.

The pilots say they went on mass leave after four of their colleagues were sacked because they were trying to get the management to recognise their newly formed union.

Jet said the four were fired for indiscipline and called the mass absence of pilots a "simulated strike".

Most Indian private airlines do not have unions and analysts have warned the unrest at Jet Airways could become the trigger for labour unrest in other airlines.

A Jet spokeswoman said the pilots were still on leave and the airline was accommodating passengers on other carriers,

The Bombay High Court also served a contempt notice to the pilots, following a petition filed by the airline against the mass leave, the airline said in a statement late on Wednesday.

The ongoing crisis was triggered after talks between the management and NAG broke down over a demand to reinstate two sacked pilots.

The union subsequently said they were open for conciliatory talks with the management only if the sacked pilots are reinstated and the union not dismantled.

Turmoil at Jet Airways could trigger labour unrest in other India's airlines
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