The troubled Kingfisher is trying to brace itself for yet another crisis with employees of the private carrier threatening to go on strike from Tuesday if their salary dues are not paid within a day. Despite an assurance from chairman Vijay Mallya, they appeared in no mood to relent.
Mr. Mallya has given the assurance that all junior staff will be paid by April 4 and pilots and engineers on April 9 and 10.
In a bid to get some help in securing their dues, the employees have also appealed to the players of Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) to boycott Indian Premier League cricket matches, starting on April 4. Mr. Mallya owns RCB.
Meanwhile, some Kingfisher flights from Delhi and Mumbai were reported cancelled as the staff did not report for duty. However, there was no official confirmation of the cancellation. The debt-laden airline had on March 27 announced that it would operate 120 flights with 20 aircraft during the summer schedule — March 25-October 27.
In an internal communication, Mr. Mallya said the formalities of unfreezing the company's bank accounts were completed on Sunday, following payment of Rs. 44 crore to the Income-Tax Department and Rs. 20 crore to Service Tax authorities before March 31. The authorities earlier froze close to 40 accounts of the airline for non-payment of dues.
Mr. Mallya also indicated that starting this week he would be personally available at each major station once a week to listen to the concerns of staff at all levels.
“We have managed to keep the lights on in our days of darkness with adversity from every conceivable direction. The freezing of our accounts and consequent IATA suspension, the resultant loss of the BSP booking platform, the adverse media blitz and the loss of customer confidence are all serious challenges that we have survived,” Mr. Mallya's e-mail said.
Staff not paid since December
Employees of the cash-strapped carrier, who have not been paid since last December, have put the airline on notice to pay two months' salaries and dues by Tuesday evening and clear the remaining dues by April 20.
Kingfisher has massively cut down its operations, including shutting down many domestic sectors and completely discontinuing international operations. From 400 flights a day before the crisis, it is operating just about 100 flights now. The airline, which has a debt of $ 1.3 billion, is under pressure from its lenders to inject equity.