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Suicide highlights workers' pay woes

Thousands of airline staff unpaid since March

Suicide highlights workers' pay woes
Kingfisher employees march in wage protest
Swati Deb, New Delhi

October 9, 2012

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Hundreds of Kingfisher Airlines employees marched today in the national capital to demand salary payments, just five days after an employee’s wife made headlines by committing suicide over financial anxieties. Around 4,000 workers at the airline have not received salaries since March. The National Human Rights Commission, a federal body, has filed a plea to initiate a case against the airline owner and liquor baron Vijaya Mallaya for allegedly abetting Sushmita Chakravarty’s suicide. One of the marchers in New Delhi said no one wanted to be named in the media for fear of retribution. “We have suffered enough but still have hopes that things can improve,” he said. The airline has been reporting losses since it began operations in 2005 and recently admitted that its bank accounts have been frozen due to non-clearance of tax dues. The airline began suspending operations on October 1. It is now in talks with bankers to finalize new funding. Meanwhile, the government has served an ultimatum to the airline to sort out all its salary-related issues or face a prolonged shutdown. “Kingfisher will have to obtain clearance from the government regulator Directorate-General of Civil Aviation before resuming operations," federal Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said. Sharad Yadav, leader of one of the opposition parties, wants Mallaya to face trial for violating his workers’ rights. “Put him behind bars and see how he starts understanding the misery of his employees,” he said. Kingfisher has debts of US$1.4 billion, owed chiefly to the State Bank of India. Until recently, it led the private sector in India’s fast-growing aviation industry.
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