New Delhi: Faced with the prospect of job loss, the employees of grounded Jet Airways knocked on the doors of government for helping to save the airline. The airline staff from across various departments took out a march on Tuesday in front of Rajiv Gandhi Bhawan that houses the Civil Aviation Ministry. The employees hope government will take note of their situation and act to protect jobs.
Facing severe liquidity crisis, Jet Airways suspended all its operations on April 17 leaving its almost 22,000 employees in the lurch. With the financial health of the airline worsening since then and the SBI-led lenders yet to rope in a buyer, the carrier has seen mass exodus of employees especially engineers and pilots. A Jet insider now estimates that the staff strength of the airline could have come down by half in over one month.
“Now that elections are over we hope that government would take necessary steps to revive Jet Airways. We will try to meet Aviation Secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola and understand what government could do to protect our jobs,” said a protesting employee working with the airline’s engineering department.
Another personnel said that the SBI-led lenders should expedite the stake sale process as there has already been significant delays. While lenders are vetting various investment proposals, most of the top airline executives including its CEO, CFO and Company Secretary have resigned from their respective positions citing personal reasons.
Close on the heels of resignation by the airline’s whole-time director Gaurang Shetty, Etihad nominee on the board Robin Kamark also resigned on May 16. Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, which holds 24 per cent stake in the crisis-hit Jet Airways, is currently the only solicited bidder for a stake in the airline. But experts have found its bid unattractive for the lenders given multiple riders attached to it.
Besides offering to invest just Rs 1,700 crore against the requirement of Rs 15,000 crore to revive the crisis-hit airline, Etihad has in its proposal put the onus of finding majority buyer on lenders. The Gulf carrier also wants exemption from giving open offer in case its stake goes beyond 26 per cent.