Jet Airways pilots say Indian Constitution empowers them to strike

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Mumbai/New Delhi, Sep. 9 (ANI): Sacked Jet Airways pilots on Wednesday said that the Constitution of India empowered them with the right to strike if the management was indulging in unfair practices.

Sam Thomas, one of the sacked pilots, told a press conference here that there was no question of disbanding the union that they formed and that the airlines management has maligned the image of the pilots. He also said that the strike would continue as long as their demands were not addressed.

Thomas said the pilots union is ready to talk with the management to resolve their issues, which he said, had been forwarded more than 40 days ago. He also said that several unions across various sectors have offered their support to the strike.

He claimed that the Jet Airways management has reneged on several agreements before and added that the sacking of pilots was unjustified.

It was also claimed that his senior management has misled the chairman of Jet Airways, Naresh Goyal.

Thomas's views came as the COO of Jet Airways, Captain Hamid Ali, said the Ministry of Civil Aviation was being kept posted about the developing situation, which was worrisome.

Labour Minister Mallikarjun Kharge said Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) could be invoked against striking Jet Airways pilots if the Civil Aviation ministry recommends so but hoped that matter would be resolved before that.

Senior Jet Airways officials on Wednesday said that talks with the striking pilots were still on and there was no breakthrough as yet.

A total of 186 flights -- 154 domestic and 32 international -- had been cancelled or affected throughout its network, the officials said, adding that 432 of the 760 pilots were on strike.

Airline chairman Naresh Goyal met Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation Praful Patel and briefed him about the crisis. Goyal is likely to appeal to the Government to step in to resolve the crisis, though Patel refused to comment when asked what was being down to end the stalemate.

Reiterating that the striking pilots have caused huge inconvenience to traveling passengers, Captain Ali said Jet Airways was grateful that other airlines had stepped in with timely assistance. They also confirmed that they have set up a crisis management center to help passengers board flights to various destinations.

Their comments and apologies came as passengers were left stranded yet again for a second day in a row.

The Aviators' Guild pilots have said they are standing firm on their demand to reinstate the sacked pilots and added that they are willing to sit across the table for talks - but will not dissolve the union.

The management is reportedly refusing to give into their demands. Sending out a strong message yesterday, Jet Airways sacked some more pilots for their coordinated sick-out following it up with 5 more sackings this morning.

However Girish Kaushik, President of Jet's newly formed union of pilots said the management must reinstate the pilots that have been sacked.

"We have no demands. Just take the six people back - and they have now increased the number. We are helpless. This problem cannot be one sided. It takes two hands to clap. We have extended our hand. I expect the management to extend its hand and solve the problem," he said on Wednesday.

Practically all Jet flight routes have being hurt today with cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and other metros also seeing some of the most cancellations.

Jet Airways Chief Naresh Goyal has said the airline is trying their best to make sure that passengers are put on alternative flights.

"We are willing to sit with them (pilots) and to follow certain guidelines and rules and not create inconvenience to customers and passengers," Goyal told a private television channel.

Jet Airways yesterday suspended all its flights between the UAE and India after almost half of its pilots did not report for duties.

About 13,000 passengers were affected, the airline said. (ANI)

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