Mumbai: A group of Colombian and Panamanian pilots of Chennai-based Paramount Airways Ltd have been stranded in India because they haven’t been paid salaries for at least two months, forcing the Colombian envoy to step in.
Colombian ambassador Juan Alfredo Pinto Saavedra wrote on 3 May to the labour commissioner, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and Paramount on behalf of the five Colombian and four Panamanian pilots.
“One of my duties is to ensure that the rights of my fellow countrymen are not being violated,” the ambassador wrote in his letter. Saavedra confirmed to Mint that he had sent the letter, which cited “economic and operative difficulties” aggravated by the grounding of Paramount planes on court orders.
Three of the airline’s fleet of five Embraers have been pulled from service over payment disputes with GE Commercial Aviation Services and one because of engineering issues. Paramount also has a payment dispute with ECC Leasing Co. Ltd from which it had taken two planes on lease.
The aviation regulator last month started reviewing the airline licence of Paramount after its fleet strength fell short of the minimum five aircraft that it’s required to maintain.
M.M.J. Rao, regional labour commissioner in Chennai, said he hadn’t received any letter from the embassy of Colombia yet, but said he had called a meeting with pilots and airline management to resolve issues on Thursday as a “precautionary measure”.
A spokesperson for Paramount Airways denied that any salaries were overdue. “We have not terminated any contracts of our pilots. They left the country on their own as we did not extend their contracts. We don’t need so many pilots when we are flying just one aircraft. Moreover, these are Embraer pilots (who) are not eligible to fly Airbus planes that we will shortly induct to our fleet,” the Paramount spokesman said.
On Monday, Paramount Airways secured in-principle approval from the ministry of civil aviation to import 10 Airbus A321 planes. Umberto Jarrin, 43, a pilot from Colombia, said he hadn’t received his salary for four months. Jarrin said officials at Paramount had kept promising him and his colleagues that the issue would be settled soon.
The spokesperson for Paramount said their contracts had expired several months ago.