Employees of the troubled Kingfisher Airlines — whose right to fly was suspended by the aviation regulator on Saturday — have decided to take on Vijay Mallya, the King of Good Times, at the Formula 1 racing tracks in Greater Noida.
The three-day F1 Grand Prix event is scheduled to take place during October 26-28 and the KFA promoter’s Sahara Force India Formula One Team is expected to take part in it. Mallya and Dutch businessman Michiel Mol bought the Spyker F1 team for 90 million euros (Rs. 630 crore) on October 24, 2007, and rechristened it.
The team made its debut at the 2008 Australian Grand Prix. On October 12, 2011, Sahara India announced that it had bought a 42.5% stake in the team. Of the balance, Mallya holds 42.5%, while Mol’s share is 15%. The team is known as Sahara Force India F1 Team since then.
Sources in the F1 racing circles say the team needs a budget of around $120 million a year for its 250-odd employees.
"We have planned to stage a dharna when Mr Vijay Mallya comes at the Grand Prix,” said a disgruntled engineer of the airline. “A protest at the sporting event will highlight our plight to the entire world.”
The KFA employees, till now not under any trade union, said they had been forced to think of a protest at the F1 venue since they had not been able to meet him so far on their demands.
The protests are being planned even as some employees’ representatives are expected to meet the KFA top management on Monday. “Yes, we are meeting the senior management of the company,” a Delhi-based pilot confirmed.
He said the meeting would discuss the pending salaries. "The management has been insisting that we forego our seven months’ salary and return to work and that the company will pay our salary in future. This is unacceptable.”
Other KFA employees did not attach much importance to Monday's meeting and said unless cornered, the company's management would not accept their demands.
A KFA airhostess said, "What is the option left before us but to protest?
All of us are in deep financial crisis, but the father-son duo (Mallya and his son Siddharth) is unperturbed. They are, in fact, mocking at our misery with their lifestyle."