Kingfisher strike ends as engineers accept salary

Last Updated: Fri, Oct 26, 2012 04:10 hrs
Employees of Kingfisher Airlines take part in a protest against the company in New Delhi

The standoff between Kingfisher Airlines' management and employees ended on Thursday, with the airline disbursing the March salary to engineers and employees accepting CEO Sanjay Aggarwal's offer of three months' salary by Diwali. With this, the 26-day strike has ended and agitating employees have resumed work.

Now that the partial lockout has been lifted, tomorrow Aggarwal will meet Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) Arun Mishra to seek revocation of the suspension of the airline's permit to fly. The regulator has sought a credible revival plan from the airline and will ascertain whether the airline's operations are safe and sustainable.

Three days ago, Aggarwal had made the offer to pilots and engineers to clear three months' dues. The engineers and pilots had not been paid for March and subsequent months, while others have not received salary from April on.

A section of engineers from Delhi, who were demanding that the airline pay them four months' salary at once, relented after a meeting with Aggarwal on Thursday. Some employees had also planned to corner the airline's chairman, Vijay Mallya (abroad through the month) at the F1 race in Delhi, but the protest has now been cancelled.

Kingfisher will pay its employees the salary for April on or before October 31 and the May salary by Diwali. "The crucial test for the management will be to pay the April salary. The airline had earlier paid the March salary to 80 per cent of employees, but engineers and pilots and some senior management executives were left out. By next week, the airline has to pay all the employees,'' said a source.

The airline, which has about 3,700 employees on its rolls, has a monthly bill of a little less than Rs 20 crore. Over the past five months, staff strength has reduced by 40 per cent.

The airline will have to file a credible revival plan to DGCA, which suspended the permit last Saturday. Prior to its permit suspension, the airline had announced it would start operations from November 6, though its winter schedule was not approved by the regulator.

The DGCA will now seek details about operational planes, maintenance schedules, availability of spares and engines to ascertain whether the airline can maintain its schedule. Additionally, the airline will have to work out arrangements with airport operators and service providers who have also not been paid. For one, the Airports Authority of India, whom the airline owes dues to the tune of Rs 250 crore, is considering banning Kingfisher Airlines planes to take off from its airports.

Kingfisher Airlines has been operating nine Airbus A320s and ATR planes between Mumbai. Delhi, Bangalore and to tier-II towns such as Shimla, Hubli, Kandla, among others. Now with the engineers back on duty, the airline will be able to carry out routine maintenance and checks on aircraft.

"All employees are now eagerly looking forward to working together in order to re-starting operations very soon. We will now finalize and present our resumption plan to the DGCA and hope to get its concurrence soon," the airline spokesperson said in a statement.

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