Kingfisher engineers plan winding-up petition against company

Kingfisher engineers would also meet in Delhi on January 20 to discuss the filing of a closure petition against the beleaguered airline.

Mumbai/New Delhi: Employees of grounded Kingfisher Airlines, whose salaries have remained unpaid for the past eight months, are again in a defiant mood with the pilots Monday deciding to launch a hunger strike next week.

Its engineers would also meet in Delhi on January 20 to discuss the filing of a closure petition against the beleaguered airline.

Talks between the representatives of the pilots and the airline management in Mumbai Monday afternoon failed to arrive at a resolution of the impasse.

Following this, the pilots decided to send a legal notice to the airline demanding payment of all salary dues.

They also decided to launch a hunger-strike from January 21 at the company headquarters, Kingfisher House, in Mumbai if the dues were not baid by then, sources among the pilots said, adding that they were also demanding an immediate audience with airline chairman Vijay Mallya.

In a related development, sources among the engineers said, "We (Kingfisher Airlines engineers) have called a meeting of all engineers on January 20 to discuss the winding up petition."

The airlines' engineers, who are taking legal counsel on the issue, said, "We are hopeful that by January 20, we will be able to give a final shape to our legal recourse."

Kingfisher Airlines, whose flying license (scheduled operator's permit) expired on December 31, has been grounded since October one last year.

The Service Tax Department has already issued notices to the airline as to why it should not confiscate its entire aircraft fleet for default on the levy amounting to Rs 60 crore, apart from another Rs 127 crore that is under litigation.

Kingfisher management was not immediately available for comments on the latest developments.

The employees had last week said they would move a winding-up petition before the courts if the management did not share the company's revival plan, including their recapitalisation plan and payment schedule for salary dues.

"We demand that the management share the revival plan with us. We also want it to spell out a payment schedule for our salary dues. If we don't find their explanation satisfactory, we will file a winding up petition in the court under section 433 of the Companies Act," they had said.

Following this, Mallya had shot off an e-mail to the employees, listing the measures the company had taken to restart a scaled down operations by the summer. But that did not convince the staffers who said Mallya's statement "does not address" their concerns.

"We wanted to know from him the payment schedule for our dues, not paid to most of the employees since May. He has not given a firm assurance on that. We have already been short-changed by the management last October when they promised us to clear dues up to June by December but failed to meet the commitment," the sources said.

The airlines' bankers, who have been discussing recovery measures during the past few months, have also decided to take legal action against the airline for its failure to repay over Rs 7,500 crore debts despite repeated reminders, which has not been serviced since last January.

Kingfisher is burdened with a loss of Rs 8,000 crore and a debt burden of another over Rs 7,524 crore.

The airline also has vendor dues to the tune of over Rs 1,000 crore apart from airport fees and TDS dues running into several hundreds of crores.