Jet Airways – Stop Union bashing, NTUI Press Statement

See below the press statement by New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI) on the anti-worker actions of Jet Airways and Indian Government:

NTUI logo

MEDIA RELEASE: 9 September 2009, New Delhi
Jet Airways – Stop Union bashing!
Support the workers fight for right to association and trade union rights!

The New Trade Union Initiative condemns the illegal dismissal of two Jet Airways pilots, Captains Balaraman and Sam Thomas on 31 July 2009, exactly 7 days after the pilots registered their union, the National Aviators Guild (NAG), on 24 July 2009. Captains Balaraman and Sam Thomas, the General Secretary and Joint Secretary respectively of NAG, had been at the forefront of union formation and the union has the support of 85% of the 760 pilots employed by Jet Airways. Jet Airways management refused to recognise the union and went on to summarily dismiss two of its office  bearers. Management has dismissed an additional 5 pilots earlier today for supporting the struggle for their democratic rights.

The right to association is a recognised right of workers, enshrined in this country’s constitution and protected by national statute and requires no justification. In fact, the pilots were forced to register a union because the Jet Airways management stopped consulting with the ten year-old pilots’ welfare body, the Society for Welfare of Indian Pilots (SWIP), on the grounds that this body did not have any legal standing to negotiate with management. Jet Airways management has also refused to recognise the National Aviators Guild which is a duly registered union with the Registrar of Trade Unions, Maharashtra. Hence, the Jet Airways management believes it is above Indian law.

Both SWIP and NAG gave the Jet Airways management ample time to reinstate the illegally dismissed pilots before NAG finally issued a 2-week notice for a strike on 24 August, three weeks after the dismissal of the two pilots. The matter was referred to the Regional Labour Commissioner (RLC) for conciliation the next day. The RLC advised that under provision of law, the Jet Airways management cannot terminate the services of any pilot and the pilots cannot go on a strike as long as the matter was under conciliation.

The Jet Airways management went to the Bombay High Court despite the matter being under conciliation. Since there is no strike, the strike notice was withdrawn, and no court of competent jurisdiction has declared it illegal, the Bombay High Court ought not to have interfered at this stage, particularly as the Union was not present and may not have been served notice. However, by terminating the services of the additional pilots today, the management has acted in contravention of the conciliation proceedings under the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act. Furthermore provisions concerning public utilities can not be invoked against a single service provider when other service providers are available to travelers.

The Government of India has also allowed itself to act in concert with the Jet Airways management with the Union Home Secretary G. K. Pillai writing to the Chief Secretaries of all states advising them to invoke ESMA against the sick leave of Jet Airways pilots. Earlier this afternoon the Union Labour Minister Mallikarjun Kharge was virtually egging on the Ministry of Civil Aviation to invoke ESMA.

The actions of Jet Airways management against a duly registered trade union with publicly displayed support of those it represents, engaging in legally sanctioned actions to have its grievances addressed, stands in stark contrast to the same management’s actions earlier in August 2009 when it got together with other private airlines and attempted to arm-twist Government by threatening to suspend all airline operations if the
Government did not bail them out of a financial crisis of their own making.

The NTUI demands that the Jet Airways management:
· Stop violating the Indian constitution and recognise the National Aviators Guild
· Reinstate all the dismissed pilots immediately
· Stop victimisation of workers
· Stop engaging in unfair labour practice

The NTUI calls upon the Ministry of Labour to defend the right to association and ensure that Jet Airways management follows the due process of law and engages in negotiation with the registered trade union, the National Aviators Guild.

Gautam Mody
Secretary
New Trade Union Initiative

B-137 Dayanand Colony, First Floor,
Lajpatnagar Part IV,
New Delhi 110024
Tel: 91-11-26214538 /26486931
Fax: 91-11- 26486931

E-Mail: secretariat@ntui.org.in

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