By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2021-07-11 13:45:22
It is true that to revive a bankrupt company, all stakeholders must take a hit, sometimes a huge hit, rather than see the entire claim go down the drain. The revival plans under IBC often adopt the best route (with the approval of the creditors, of course) and are cleared by a host of regulatory bodies. But it is shocking to know that the Kalrock-Jalan revival plan for Jet Airways is offering peanuts to its former employees. It is reported that under the plan, the employees will only be given Rs 23000 per head although the company owes them amounts ranging from Rs 3 lakhs to Rs 85 lakhs. This will be finally okayed if 95% of the employees approave it. There is no clarity regarding payment of gratuity and other statutory dues. This plan has been approved by the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) which also has not clearly defined in its order how the employee dues are to be settled.
This is discriminatory and distressing. The total dues of Jet Airways amount to Rs 15,400 crore, out of which Rs 1,254 crore is due to the employees. The ratio of payment to employees should also be the same to that used for other creditors. For example, if a bank is being paid 30% of what is due to it, each employee must also be paid 30% of his dues. That is what is fair as it was the employees who kept the airlines afloat even in its troubled times although they were not paid salaries and they are now looking at an uncertain future. Further, it is not fair to treat all employees as same. A pilot cannot be treated the same as a ground staff and cannot be handed a paltry sum of Rs 23000 if the company owes him or her Rs 85 lakh.
The All India Jet Airways Officers & Staff Association has already protested against the scheme. Kiran Pawaskar, the president of the body, has said that the amount being paid to employees is "as good as zero" and "if the issue isn't resolved, we will challenge it in court". With this, it seems that the Kalrock-Jalan revival plan for Jet Airways flown into turbulence. It is surprising that when someone makes a bid for an ailing or bankrupt company, they usually try to treat former employees as dirt. It is also surprising that regulatory authorities do not object to this. Any revival plan must treat employees on an even keel with other creditors and ensure that they do not have to take an extra hit, or as in this case, are offered lollipops.