Pilots at one of India's biggest airlines could stop flying with their expat colleagues because they're paid less.
The National Aviators Guild, a labor union representing more than 1,000 Indian pilots at Jet Airways, says it is taking a stand against discrimination.
It says Indian pilots have to work longer hours for lower wages than pilots hired by the airline from overseas.
Fpreign pilots work for eight weeks and get two weeks off," NAG President D. Balaraman says. They're trying to make us work for 11 weeks to get the two weeks off, which we feel is unfair.
The union had directed its members to stop sharing a cockpit with the airline's expat pilots from Monday. It called off that strike over the weekend after being promised talks this week with airline management.
The threat of a strike hasn't gone away entirely and will depend on the outcome of those negotiations.
Jet Airways says it has to hire expats at a higher cost because Indian pilots won't fly certain aircraft in its fleet, such as Boeing 737s and ATR regional turboprops.
An airline spokesperson said it had to cover gaps caused by a shortage of skilled Indian pilots,many of whom do not regard those aircraft as a preferred career option.
According to the airline, only about 8% of its 2,000 pilots are expats. The spokesperson added that Jet Airways had hired more than 400 Indian pilots in the past 16 months.
Expat pilots are employed by several airlines in India, where the aviation industry is growing at almost 20% per year and could become the world's third-largest by 2020.
According to government figures cited by local media, around 400 of India's 6,300 pilots come from overseas.
Expat pilots are also in demand elsewhere in Asia: China has been offering staggering six-figure salaries for foreign pilots willing to come fly in the country.
But some have attracted controversy recently, inflaming the dispute at Jet Airways. One expat pilot at the airline was accused of assaulting a company trainer last month, while another made headlines for allegedly racially and physically abusing passengers.
Jet Airways said action has been taken against the first pilot, while the claims about the second expat pilot were being investigated.
For now at least, the Indian pilots are ready to sit down and talk about continuing to work with their better paid colleagues.
We will discuss it, then only we can decide further course of action,Balaraman said.
We are trying to improve our working conditions, which we want a little bit similar to the expats.
Jet Airways has told pilots that the freeze on pay hikes would be reviewed after declaring the first quarter results and urged them to make personal sacrifices amid business headwinds.
Jet Airways has told pilots that the freeze on pay hikes would be reviewed after declaring the first quarter results and urged them to make "personal sacrifices" amid business headwinds.
Faced with financial challenges and intense competition, the full service carrier recently decided to freeze the increments for the staff in the current fiscal year which it had done in 2016-17 too.
Pilots have been having differences with the airline management on certain issues, including those related to expat pilots.
The carrier has around 1,500 pilots.
In a communication to the pilots, Jet Airways said continued efforts are being taken to improve the over-all performance, processes and trim costs. As a result, the operations management team has been restructured and work force has been rationalised.
This has begun to yield results and we need to sustain fully this momentum. To this, we need to make some personal sacrifices.
We therefore, appeal to you, to share a part of the burden. As a result, we will take an increment freeze for the present, which will be reviewed post declaration of the first quarter results of FY 2017-18, the communication said.
In the interim, the airline said the international per diem layover and the international trainers allowances would continue.
The casual leave encashment for the 2016-17 financial year would be paid in June and July this year, respectively, in two equal instalments, it added.
Jet Airways, listed on the BSE and the NSE, is yet to inform the exchanges about the date of announcing the March quarter results.
In the three months ended December 2016, the airline had reported a 70 per cent decline in net profit at Rs 142.38 crore as higher fuel expenses and other costs took a toll on the bottom line.
The full service carrier had a net profit of Rs 467.11 crore in the year-ago period.
In the 2016 December quarter, the group reduced its net debt by Rs 1,001 crore.
We are once again at a cross road where challenges require various decisions,including some unpleasant to be made. This is to remain relevant in the present competitive environment,the communication said.
Next month, the airline would be completing 24 years.