Tears, threats, triumph in Jet Airways layoff drama

October 17, 2008

jet.jpgI was on a Jet Airways flight from Delhi to Mumbai on Wednesday, the day the airline said it may lay off a further 1,100 employees in addition to the 800 it had retrenched.

Outside the Delhi airport, TV news channel vans had lined up; inside, Jet staff at the counter tried not to meet the sympathetic eyes of passengers. Aboard the aircraft, which had telltale empty seats, newspapers folded into seat pockets had headlines of the layoffs.

I wondered if any of the efficient stewards and stewardesses had been tempted to rip off the covers, or if they were just relieved they were not on probation.

On Thursday, ministers and political parties weighed in on the retrenchments, some calling them illegal, others calling them ill-timed.

Chairman Naresh Goyal, late on Thursday, said he was reinstating the sacked employees because he “could not sleep at night”.  The tired protesters cheered.

No one questioned the logic of Jet returning leased aircraft or putting its international expansion on hold to cut costs. So why the furore over the layoffs?

Because the sight of the well-groomed stewards and stewardesses in their smart uniforms, shouting “We want our jobs back”, struck a chord with us.

Because thousands of middle-class Indians had boarded an aircraft for the first time in recent years as new discount carriers and low fares had given them an opportunity to fly home for the festival season or take their family on vacation.

Because new airlines had given thousands of young men and women, many from small towns, a ticket to glamorous jobs in the city.

Because an industry that had grown at an average pace of more than 25 percent, headed by a suave politician, with its promise of gleaming new airports and shiny aircraft, had come to symbolise “India Shining” again.

“During the boom we hired people, gave them big salaries. Now, in the downturn, there will be layoffs,” said Kapil Kaul, chief executive in India for the Centre of Asia-Pacific Aviation.

“It’s the new reality that we have to adjust to.”


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because it was a question of rouge and mascara being washed away in tears!!!

Posted by sulajja | Report as abusive

This is a bad for business and employment both. It is a LOSE-LOSE situation.

Companies will be loath to hire anyone, thereby lakhs of jobs will no longer be created.
Companies would shy away from setting up in India.

If Employees can resign and go anytime, why can’t employer ask a employee to leave?

Posted by Roshan | Report as abusive

Jet employees acted like cry babies, MNS again showed that it is a goonda party, Government as usual was confused, Jet airways showed that it has no HR practices or bone and as usualy the laws of land were subverted.

Jet employees, should have known that they were willingly part of game were risk is as much part as rewards are. If they wanted job stability they could have joined low paying and less glamorous jobs in Govt or PSU. They cant have cake and eat it too.

In final analysis, bunch of galmorous but immature kids with politicians have set a bad precedence.

Posted by Undercover Indian | Report as abusive

I am glad Jet has relented and will reinstate employees. in India the kind of dog-eat-dog capitalism prevalent in the US will not work. Not only will it destroy people’s nascent confidence in capitalism, it will discredit capitalism among policy makers and increase pressure to return to the tired, destructive economics of the past.

Purely from an ethical viewpoint,also, letting workers go except as a very last resort is immoral under any school of Indian philosophy.

No doubt Jet is under financial strain. But before firing anyone, there are ways to align Jet’s objectives and those of its workers. Furloughs are an example; reduced pay temporarily for those who can take it is another. Buyouts, even of people just hired, are yet another way. Were Jet to offer – say – Rs 2-lakh to those recently hired as compensation for the time, money, effort they spent on getting the job, many of the workers might choose this as an equitable way out.

Posted by Ravi Rikhye | Report as abusive

Did these politicians asked how Jet is going to pay the salaries of these people? Who will bear the brunt of losses? Shareholders? Taxpayers?

The political interference when a company is trying to rationalize its structure to remain afloat is not a very good move when government is try to attract foreign investors money. How can foreign investors be assured that these politicians will not rob them of their money?

Posted by Gaurav | Report as abusive

Everybody claiming credit for the reinstatement of the staff.
Are the politicians really worried about the people’s plight?
There are thousands, who do not get work. What about them?

Posted by reddy | Report as abusive

Glamourous weeps off beautiful faces will melt anybody and Naresh Goyal was no exception..so was hardened Raj Thakeray (migrant tears who cares!) and Praful patel..

Posted by ONP | Report as abusive

It is the right of every citizen to seek employment, and the duty of the government to give a job to every person willing to work. If this is the way the government does their duty, by forcing private companies to re-instate fired staff, that is good! But they should also realize that in the long run, as per economics 101, they are taking the economy downhill.

Posted by Vishnu Shastri | Report as abusive

This episode has shown that kids of today have not grown up. They still behave like school children, petualent, with no idea about harsh reality of real life. For them, life is one big party.

It will be interesting to do a survey and find out how many of these spoilt kids actually send money home. I have serious doubts!

Posted by Sameer | Report as abusive

This was the most humiliating situation for any business man who wants to do a fair business in india. Such gonda-raj politics can only scare any further investments in india. Airlines are suffering, and they are always looking for a reason to cut down cost or close down the airline. After such embarrasing media interview where Mr. Goyal had to swear by his mother, iam sure he may slowly start to close or sell the airline and this is certainly not good for the remaining employees some of whom have helped the airline start from the scratch. Really bad goverment politics .. Mr. Chidambaram and Mr. Deora here was a real chance to show you real Knowledge, politics and concern for the industries ….

Posted by jagdish | Report as abusive

financial crunch would not happen immediately. Jet has shown a very unprofessional attitute with so called family members. There are many ways to handle such situations.People have their sentimentes and they are not machine that you could scarp them anytime.
Raj has done a great job supporting thise needy people on time and with positive frame of mind.

Posted by Mahesh Botre | Report as abusive

Jet has acted in immatured manner, would have averted the ruckus with politicians threatening, media sensationalising and young crew members baby crying (also Mr. Goyal not getting sleep, conscience etc.) Should have helped these young lads to secure a job in other sectors where they could be assets than a liability. After all aren’t BPO complaining of unemployable job aspirants.
On the other hand Govt. taxing heavily to those who are managing to earn a decent life. Yet giving free hand to big and small corrupt politicians/ govt. officials and businessmen dealing in parallel economy without creating a safety net for those , being taxed. Capitalism is OK,

Posted by ramrajya | Report as abusive

Well I guess Mr. Goyal’s and Mr. Mallaya’s personal expenses for a month exceed the combined salaries of all the retrnched workers. If situation is so bad why dont these people start travelling in economy class, give up their personal yatchs, cut salaries of executives and managers. If all these means have alredy been used, then only Jet should have laid off employees. We have increasingly been adopting a system where we snatch bite out the mouth of the weakest one before the richest loose their extra wealth. Though I hate MNS for its regional leanings but it alone had the guts to come out openly against Jet. Not forgetting that the lay offs were illegal. Companies exist for the welfare of people and in good times you are taught that one should be loyal and dedicated towards your organisation. Yet in bad times you are the first one to be thrown out. I sincerely hope that thsi dog eats dog cpitalism does not plague our economy and minds of people. Those extra smart people who think they are secure should think again. Maybe the next axe falls on your neck all of a sudden, one morning you get up with a phone call informing you that you are fired.

Posted by asterix117 | Report as abusive

To those talking about this episode ‘threatening investment in India’. Seriously?

It is like people were claiming how the Singur episode would threaten investment in India. Companies know the risk when they enter a region, and they still come because they need the money. Claiming that such episodes threaten investment is just dumb and unrealistic.

India isn’t Pakistan that countries would just throw up their hands in the air and say, “Oh screw this. Forget billions we would make or save entering the Indian market in the future. Let’s just leave and never come back.”. That’s stupid and won’t hapen ever.

Also, just because the previous generation and people in the west like to bend over as the companies fire them to save money, doesn’t mean that next gen has to do the same. When you say ‘times are changing’, this is pretty much part of that change. Live with it and stop your whining.

Posted by Nikhil Sharma | Report as abusive

Afterall who cares about Jet, This is owned by Davood and Naresh is his proxy. I have not much sympathy with employees as well, they got this job because of their fair complexion and glamour and I dont think majority of Indians have any chance to get jobs like this because of the colour of their skin and the racisism in India against the brown skinned ones.

Posted by Raju Cherian | Report as abusive

The majority of the people only influenced by TV coverage and white skinned babies crying for their jobs but no body talks when a big giant mnc acquires a big land from thousands farmers whose ancestoral way of life (agriculture not agribusiness) destroyed without no job guaruntee and at a price much below the market price.

Posted by Siddharth | Report as abusive

Pretty faces wins the race !!! Guy why dont you do the same thing for 2500 employees of lehman bros in India and 1000’s of others losing job in the global meltdown. Politician fight for media friendly faces to leverage votes. If the parties were so concerned about this flamboyant chikini babes, then they should have created jobs for them in maharashtra electricity or water boards…

Posted by Shrivathsan | Report as abusive

As a potential shareholder, the best course would have been to give a reasonable severance package to the employees but do whats required to manage costs. Otherwise, the company could go in a downward spiral with higher personnel costs leading to higher operational costs leading to higher ticket fares and as a result less passengers.

This decision makes me not want to be an investor in such a company.

Posted by Kapil P | Report as abusive