SpiceJet
SpiceJet
File photo

SpiceJet has run into rough weather with its ground staff. They have given the budget carrier a notice of strike over the airline’s planned layoffs.

The airline has outsourced part of its ground handling operations at Mumbai airport to CelebiNAS Airport Services amid increasing financial woes for domestic airlines in the wake of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has adversely impacted travel demand, news reports said quoting sources.

In response to a PTI query, a SpiceJet spokesperson said the airline has outsourced its partial ground operations at the Mumbai airport to CelebiNAS from May 1, 2021. "As part of the arrangement, CelebiNAS will have a recruitment drive to absorb maximum support staff from SpiceJet to protect employees'' interest."

According to a report in The Times of India, Arvind Sawant, president of Shiv Sena union Bharatiya Kamgar Sena (BKS) told the paper, “On one hand, SpiceJet has bid for Air India and, on the other, they say they don't have funds to pay full salaries or keep the employees on payroll. We served them a strike notice on Tuesday. They have 14 days now to resolve the issue," the newspaper quoted Arvind Sawant, president of Shiv Sena union Bharatiya Kamgar Sena (BKS), as saying. BKS is a recognised union of SpiceJet ground handling staff.

Around 300 ground staff to be laid off

Around 300 of 590 ground staff-mostly loaders and drivers who have been employed for over three to 15 years on fixed-term contract with the airline to carry out ground-handling work will be laid off, the report said.

The Gurugram-based airline has informed the loaders and drivers that they will no longer be on its payroll from next month and they should appear for interviews at CelebiNAS Airport Services India from April 26 onwards.

When contacted, both Celebi and SpiceJet confirmed the developments, agency reports said. “Yes, they (SpiceJet) have decided to do so (outsource a part of the ground handling operations to CelebiNAS in Mumbai). We have been in discussion with them for some time now," Murali Ramachandran, India CEO of Celebi Aviation Holding, told PTI in response to a query on this issue. He added that this is a commercial decision taken based on the savings they get by outsourcing such non-core operations to handlers like them.

"We bring in better economies of scale. (But), this decision is not due to inability to pay staff salary. They have been paying the salaries. Going forward they, will be paying us the handling charges. We have been handling their freighters all this while," said Ramachandran.

The spokesperson said the current COVID-19 wave has severely impacted passenger demand and flight operations. The decision has been taken "in view of the massive uncertainty of demand, created by the second wave of COVID-19 in India", he added.

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