x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Laid-off pilots say Dh2m is owed

A group of pilots who have been laid off claim they are owed Dh2 million in unpaid benefits.

DUBAI // A group of pilots laid off from a cargo airline claim they are owed Dh2 million in end-of-service benefits.

Midex Airlines has laid off more than 34 employees, most of whom were pilots. But a group of nine pilots and flight engineers are campaigning for three months' salary, saying they are entitled to it under labour laws.

"I'm going to have to sell my car just to survive because I have got bills at home to pay," said John Casey, the former chief pilot at the company. "It's dragging on, and I'm afraid they're going to drag it on forever."

Mr Casey, 54, from the US, had completed a three-year limited contract at the company and was seven months into a new contract. He said he was owed Dh280,000 in severance pay.

But he said the company offered him only Dh74,000, which was about one month's salary. The company has refused to pay the requested amount and said it was prepared to go to court.

"They want three months' additional compensation," said Dr Issam Khairallah, the president of Midex. "They cannot get it because the terms of their contract are very clear. If they don't agree with us, they should go to court like everybody else."

But there is confusion over where any possible case would be held, as Mr Casey has a Ras Al Khaimah visa while the company lists its head office in Dubai.

He was among a group of 22 pilots and flight engineers who were laid off over the past two months. Twelve ground staff were also sacked.

Dr Khairallah said the redundancies came as Midex grounded its ageing fleet of A300 jets and replaced them with Boeing 747s. He said those made redundant "weren't qualified" to remain at the company.

A former airline captain, Al Jacquet, 61, also from the US, claimed he was owed about Dh260,000 but had been offered only Dh92,000. He had completed a three-year contract at the company and was more than two months into a new contract.

"Everything I've read says that I'm entitled to this money," Mr Jacquet said. "I won't abandon this case unless someone official tells me that I'm not entitled to it."

Samir Kantaria, the head of the employment team at the law firm Al Tamimi & Company, said it would depend on the specifics of the case, but the gratuity accrued from completing the first contract should be carried over.

"It's very likely that authorities would take into account the full term of service when calculating gratuity," Mr Kantaria said. "The courts here are very employee-friendly."

mcroucher@thenational.ae