MUMBAI (Reuters) - India’s leading private carrier Jet Airways has reinstated 800 sacked flight attendants, its chief said on Thursday, following protests in cities and demands for a probe by politicians.
Chairman Naresh Goyal told a news conference in Mumbai that reinstating the sacked employees was his personal decision.
“I apologise for all the agony you went through,” Goyal said. “The management will have to understand sometimes in a family there are disagreements but the father of the family decides.”
Earlier, Jet Airways said it would lay off 1,100 staff in the next few days on top of the 800 flight attendants already sacked this week as part of efforts to cope with slowing demand, high fuel prices and the global credit crunch.
The job losses and protests have struck in an industry at the heart of India’s economic modernisation, with millions of middle-class Indians taking to the skies and carriers employing thousands of young men and women.
The airlines asked the government to bail them out but so far it has not acted.
The employees, who were mostly on contract or probation, found support from local party Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, which local media said was in talks with Jet officials for employees from the state to be reinstated.
Labour laws that make it hard to lay off employees have led to a policy of hiring more contract workers in India, which has caused protests at the Indian units of Toyota Motor Corp and Honda Motor Co in recent years.
Last month, sacked employees beat to death the India head of an Italian industrial manufacturing company near Delhi.
The Indian aviation industry, which had grown at an average annual pace of more than 25 percent in the past few years in a booming economy, is forecast to post combined losses of nearly $2 billion in the year to March 2009.
Jet Airways, which has said it expects to break even in the full year to March 2010, has struggled to raise money, with the turbulent market delaying a planned $400 million rights issue as well as a stake sale by founder Goyal.
Jet, which on Monday announced a code-sharing alliance with No. 2 carrier Kingfisher Airlines to cut costs, has put its international expansion plans on hold and trimmed capacity.
Additional reporting by Surojit Gupta