Sacking of two Jet pilots illegal, says labour commissioner

The sacking of two pilots by the Jet Airways management on Day 1 of the wildcat strike by protesting Jet pilots has been termed as "illegal" and against the established procedures of reconciliation by the highest government body set up to resolve industrial unrest.

The jet management had fired two more pilots — Capt Suhel Jain and Capt Venkat Vinod — on September 8, when more than 360 pilots shunned work and reported sick. Incidentally, Jain, who is also the president of the Jet Airways' pilots' association Society for Welfare of Indian Pilots (SWIP), and Vinod were fired without any prior notice, through a terse one-line e-mail terminating their services.

"They should have sought approval of the regional labour commissioner before sacking these two pilots. The management had sought the permission. Unless the regional labour commissioner gives the permission, the sacking of the two pilots will be termed as illegal," chief labour commissioner SK Mukh- opadhyay told The Indian Express. Since the regional labour commissioner at Mumbai has not given the approval for terminating services of these two pilots, Mukhopadhay agreed that the firing of these two pilots was indeed illegal.

The dispute between the jet management and pilots' union National Aviators' Guild had come up for reconciliatory hearing in front of regional labour commissioner in Mumbai, after the pilots had threatened to go on strike protesting sudden sacking of their colleagues — Capt D Balaraman and Capt Sam Thomas on July 31. On August 31, the management was asked by the regional labour commissioner to furnish a written reply, a copy of which was also to be marked to the newly formed union, by September 7, stating the reasons for terminating the services of Balaraman and Thomas. Mukhopadhyay said the commission had not received a copy till date. The same was verified by the NAG office bearers. The next hearing was then scheduled for Sept 14. When asked about proceedings being advanced, Mukhopadhyay said, "The September 14 meeting has been preponed as the Mumbai regional labour commissioner has gone on training. I intervened since the situation cannot be allowed to persist."

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