In a letter to the Prime Minister, Sanjay Nirupam urges him to intervene to save thousands of employees

As the stalemate between Jet Airways and its protesting pilots continued for the third day on Thursday, Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam urged the Centre to take over the private carrier and nationalise it in order to prevent the possibility of its closing down.

In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, he urged him to intervene to save thousands of Jet Airways employees and put an end to the hardship faced by passengers due to the large scale disruption of domestic and international flights.

Speaking to reporters here on behalf of the Jet Airways pilots who have proceeded on mass sick leave to demand reinstatement of two sacked colleagues, Mr. Nirupam said the termination move was in gross violation of the principles of natural justice. Also, no reasons were given.

"Their services were terminated one-and-a-half months ago through a two-line e-mail sent by the management. It was because they allegedly took part in forming a trade union of Jet Airways pilots, the National Aviators' Guild, under the provisions of the Trade Unions Act 1926,'' Mr. Nirupam said.

George Abraham, general secretary of the Aviation Industry Employees' Guild, who was present at the press conference, said the root cause of the agitation by Jet pilots was the sacking of their colleagues without any notice and reason.

He said that nearly a hundred unions and trade union bodies had extended support to the cause of the Jet pilots. Citing the example of other airlines across the world, Mr. Abraham said pilots were unionised and there was nothing unusual about it. However, it was the prerogative of the Jet management not to recognise the union.

Some of the Jet pilots who reported sick over the past two days said that expat pilots were getting nearly $12,500 a month as salary, whereas Indian commanders and pilots were paid a much lower scale.

"But nowhere have we demanded upward revision of our salary and perks. We understand that global downturn has hit civil aviation hard and airlines the world over are making losses. We just want the two sacked pilots to be taken back. After all, forming a union is not a crime, it is enshrined in our Constitution and pilots have been termed workmen by the Supreme Court,'' some of the pilots said on condition of anonymity.

Blaming the UPA government for the "dismal situation in the Indian aviation sector," BJP spokesperson and MP Rajiv Pratap Rudy said the government had chosen to be smug about its 100 days' performance while the aviation sector was slipping into chaos.

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