Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Flights again disrupted as Jet Airways pilots' strike

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Jet Airways cancelled more than 130 flights on Wednesday as a pilots' strike dragged into a second day, underlying uneasy labour relations that can hurt competitiveness.

More than 350 pilots, banned from striking without informing the airline's management in advance, have reported sick since Tuesday, forcing the cancellation of flights affecting about 13,000 passengers.

A spokeswoman for the airline said the pilots stayed away again on Wednesday. The airline said on its website that 134 flights were being cancelled, including services to Hong Kong and Singapore.

The pilots reported sick en masse after talks between the management and the National Aviators' Guild (NAG), a new Jet Airways pilots' union, broke down over a demand to reinstate two sacked pilots.

The union said the pilots were sacked because they were trying to get management to recognise it. Jet said the two were fired for indiscipline.

The strike is seen as an example of touchy labour relations in a country where archaic labour laws place myriad limits on hiring and conditions for retrenchment, hurting competitiveness and leading to worker unrest.

A World Bank report on ease of doing business ranked India a lowly 122 of 181 countries and suggested greater flexibility in labour laws would help create more jobs and reduce poverty.

The pilots remained absent despite a restraining order Jet said it had obtained from the Bombay High Court late on Tuesday against the pilots' action.

Last year, Jet Airways, reeling under high operating costs, was forced to reinstate 800 flight attendants it sacked after angry protests by employees that drew enormous media and political attention.