Kingfisher declares partial lock-out, suspends flights till Thursday

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Kingfisher Airlines on Monday night declared a partial lock-out with immediate effect and suspended flight operations till Thursday. Earlier, the services came to a grinding halt following a strike by a section of its employees.

In a statement, the Vijay Mallya-owned private carrier said it has been forced to declare a 'partial lock-out' following a series of 'protracted and unabated incidents of violence, criminal intimidation, assault, wrongful restraint and other illegal acts' including refraining from attending work, by a small section of 'recalcitrant' employees.

The airline said the action by the recalcitrant employees who have regrettably chosen to take law into their own hands forcing a complete paralysis of operations were all 'unnecessary and unprovoked'.

"It has been decided that flight operations will be suspended for the next 3 days, i.e. until October 4, 2012," it added.

The operations got completely paralysed on Monday after pilots and some other staff joined the striking engineers protesting non-payment of salaries for the last six months, sending the shares of the airline tumbling by 5 percent.

Before commencing legal action, the airline said it will make efforts to continue to engage with striking employees to persuade them not to indulge in any intimidatory tactics.

The management earlier in the day warned of a temporary shutdown, citing lack of funds to pay salaries even for a month.

Meeting of two-and-a half hours

"We had a long meeting with the CEO Sanjay Aggarwal but no solution has come out rather he threatened a temporary shutdown saying it did not have funds to pay salaries even for a month," a representative of the striking engineers who was part of the meeting told media on Monday night.

The meeting between the representatives of striking engineers and Aggarwal lasted for around two-and-a half-hours. With its engineers on strike, Kingfisher reportedly approached Air India and others for getting its aircraft checked for certification.

Ajit Singh on crisis

Earlier in the day, the Aviation Minister Ajit Singh had said, "We can't allow Kingfisher to fly until their aircraft are certified. (Since) their engineers are on strike, they can get the planes certified by other engineers also."

However, the minister warned that if the DGCA finds that Kingfisher is not sticking to its schedule or violating safety norms, action will be initiated. Significantly, Singh ruled out shutting down the airline saying, 'the government is not in the business of shutting down businesses', as that will 'create lot of problems'.

"Even with the 3 per cent market share Kingfisher has, such a move will create a havoc," he said.

We've sufficient staff: Kingfisher

Making an appeal to all employees to immediately and forthwith restore normalcy and resume normal duties, the Kingfisher statement said the airline has more than sufficient number of staff to safely operate its current schedule of flights as per the holding plan.

"It is internally ascertained that despite the fact that a vast majority of the staff are willing to cooperate and support the company in these turbulent times, they are not able to/not being allowed to report to work on account of acts of criminal intimidation by the said same class of recalcitrant employees," the statement said.

In these circumstances, with the safety of passengers in mind, the Company is left with no other option but to take firm and decisive steps as advised in law, including disciplinary action against these recalcitrant employees, to bring the situation under control particularly with a view to getting flight operations back to normal at the earliest, the statement added.

Before commencing legal action, the airline said it will make efforts to continue to engage with these recalcitrant employees to persuade them to cease and desist from intimidating and threatening the vast majority of the work force that is willing to report for work with a view to commence normal flight operations as per the holding plan as soon as possible.

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