Jet Airways retrenchment of staff becomes hot political issue

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New Delhi, Oct 16 (UNI) Despite threats to disrupt its flight operations, private air carrier Jet Airways, which recently retrenched 800 employees, today maintained that it operated its flights as per schedule.

''Our flights operated normally throughout the country,'' said a Jet Airways spokesperson.

Earlier in the day, over 100 employees of the airliner held protests at the domestic airport here, demanding their jobs back.

They were agitated that no official had come out to meet them.

'' We have been calling them, but nobody is taking our calls.

They are being most irresponsible. At the time of our induction, Mr Naresh Goyal (Chairman, Jet Airways) had assured us that we were like family members. Is this how you treat your family member?'' asked an agitated employee Rahul, who had been waiting for about three hours outside the office.

The Jet, which already laid off 800 flight attendants, said it plans to prune at least 1100 more to cope with mounting losses on account of high fuel prices and the global credit crunch.

This move has come just a day after it agreed to an operational tie-up with Vijay Mallya's Kingfisher Airlines.

The airliner's action has been described as "illegal and atrocious" by the Left parties who have sought government's immediate intervention to reinstate the victims. Central trade unions too resolved to take up the issue with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

They will also call on Labour Minister Oscar Fernandes and seek the Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel's intervention.

The Jet's decision has also become a hot political issue with the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) threatening to halt the airlines operations in Maharashtra if the dismissed staffers were not taken back.

However, Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal told newspersons while briefing about the Cabinet decisions that the government was not in a position to intervene in the Jet Airways decision, saying it was entirely a matter relating to the economics of the private airline.

Senior CPI(M) leader and party Deputy leader in the Lok Sabha Mohammad Salim said they would raise the issue during the extended session of Parliament, beginning tomorrow as the private airline is not at all in losses.

Mr Salim said the company's whole idea was to make it a big cartel. Now the government, he said, should take a cue before further jumping into the process of privatisation, liberalisation and globalisation.

The All India Democratic Women's Association, presently in session at Kolkata, also strongly condemned the arbitrary dismissal of the employees.

'Once again women are bearing the brunt of the job cuts which are seen by these private airlines as a means of staying profitable in these times of financial crisis. Many of the dismissed probationers are young women from economically insecure families who have borrowed large amounts of money in order to train themselves qualify for these jobs,'' said AIDWA president Suhasini Ali.

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