Ailing Kingfisher Airlines Ltd on Thursday extended its partial lockout by eight more days as talks between the management and employees failed to end the deadlock over non-payment of salaries for the last seven months.
The Vijay Mallya-led airline, which suspended operations on October 1 following employees’ protest, had said its planes would take to the air again on October 5. However, in a statement, the airline said it was extending the lockout to October 12.
“Kingfisher has been constrained to extend the partial lockout which commenced from Monday evening up to Friday (October 12), or up to such earlier date on which the said illegal strike is called off, and the management is informed about the same,” the company statement said.
The striking pilots are now planning to move the labour court against the airline for failing to pay their backlog.
The long wait of employees for salaries led to the first casualty on Thursday when ground staffer Manas Chakravarthy’s wife committed suicide. Police say the suicide note mentioned about the financial strain faced by the family.
In another development, Bharat Raghavan, the company secretary of Kingfisher and a key member of the top management, resigned with effect from September 30.
In the meeting, Kingfisher Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Sanjay Agarwal promised the employees to pay the salaries of March now and the rest after the airline was recapitalised. However, this was not acceptable for the striking staff.
“The talks between CEO, executive vice-president, pilots and engineers of the Delhi base ended in failure as no commitment was made by the management regarding payment of overdue salaries,” said a statement issued by pilots and engineers.
Soon after the meeting, Agarwal left for Bangalore, where he will have a similar meeting with employees, according to people aware of the development. The CEO did not meet Arun Mishra, the director general of civil aviation (DGCA), nor anyone from the civil aviation ministry, they added.
Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh expressed concern over non-payments of salaries. “It’s indeed very unfortunate. It’s sad. I know they are not being paid since February. But the company is right now in a lockout mode. I am examining what is the rule during lockout. We need concrete plans,” Singh said.
He further said the airline should be in a position to get its planes certified and it should satisfy DGCA that the schedule which it had given was maintained.
DGCA has submitted an interim report to the civil aviation ministry about the Kingfisher crisis.
“The regulator has mentioned that non- payment of salaries is a matter of serious concern, not only in terms of employees’ problems, but also in terms of safety, as those affected by non-payment were manning flight operations,” said a ministry official, who declined to be named.
Kingfisher, which had a fleet of 64 aircraft last year was operating only 10 before its services were suspended early this week. The number of daily flights also came down substantially from over 300 last year to 70-80.
Falling for the fourth straight day, the Kingfisher scrip on Thursday closed 4.79 per cent lower at Rs 13.90 on BSE, while the benchmark Sensex gained one per cent to end the trade at 19,058.15 points.