Thursday, May 19

Pessimism, protests and exhaustion: the journey of 5,000 Interjet employees after more than 180 days of strike

“Mr. Miguel Alemán Magnani, please don’t take away our savings fund, our salaries and our pension payments ”. The slogan written on what were the Interjet counters at the Mexico City International Airport, echoes the recent arrest warrant from the Prosecutor’s Office against businessman Miguel Alemán Magnani, founder of the airline, for a tax fraud of more than three million dollars. A petition that sounds like a plea from employees who, since last January, went on strike after months of working without pay. The arrest warrant against the former president of the company, now on the verge of bankruptcy, has raised tension and uncertainty among those affected by the financial and operational debacle of Interjet.

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The red and black flags at the airport of the country’s capital show the decline of an airline that became the third largest player in the sector. Founded in 2005, Interjet chose to offer very cheap tickets with a full service to its customers. However, after years of financial losses, the company stopped flying in December last year and a month later, the more than 5,000 employees went on strike after weeks without receiving their wages. The company’s debts are estimated at about 1.25 billion dollars.

Six months later, between the coming and going of tourists who come and go with their suitcases, masks and masks, in the middle of the third wave of the pandemic, Interjet workers refuse to leave the counters, they refuse to end the strike. The guards continue with shifts from 8 to 12 hours, waiting for any news about their employment situation. “We remain the same, unemployed and without a response from those responsible. We have no further information, but we are still here. Each one looks for the way to continue, we look for the way to get ahead. It feels ugly, but you have to continue ”, says a worker on guard at this aerodrome, who has opted for anonymity for fear of reprisals. In his case, he had more than nine years working at Interjet in the area of ​​platforms.

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“I am happy that they are chasing him [a Miguel Alemán Magnani], because he is going to be locked up and he will pay for the damage he did to all the workers, ”says Roberto Díaz, a former Interjet worker, without hesitation about the arrest warrant against the founder of Interjet. In his case, he worked for almost two years in the airline’s image department at the Monterrey airport. The company fired him in the middle of the coronavirus crisis and still owes him about 50,000 pesos [unos 2.500 dólares] for the settlement payment, savings fund and grocery vouchers.

Letters of protest of striking employees of Interjet.
Letters of protest of striking employees of Interjet.Gladys serrano

The 40-year-old former Interjet employee currently works as a security guard at a fuel company located just steps from the airport in the state of Nuevo León. Seeing the airfield on a daily basis is a bitter reminder of his untimely dismissal and his struggle during the first months to get his money back, an amount he now no longer believes he will recover. “My lawyer already told me that we have to give it up for lost [su dinero], and what do we fight him. There has been no movement, everything remains the same, we all had to look for a job, we don’t like it, but it feeds us, many of my colleagues have not found work and have been DiDi deliverymen ”, he details.

In addition to the search for new investors and a renegotiation with the Mexican treasury, the airline’s refloating strategy involves entering into a commercial bankruptcy process. Fernando del Castillo, partner of the Castillo y Castro law firm – in charge of the Interjet procedure – trusts that under this legal instrument the restructuring of the company can be expedited. The objective is that the commercial bankruptcy is declared in a conciliation phase, not bankruptcy. “The negotiations are going well, they have spoken with special creditors, there is a dialogue with the union, with the SAT, with the Government, to try to reach an agreement,” he says.

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Del Castillo rejects that the arrest warrant against the former president of Interjet will be detrimental in the commercial bankruptcy process. “I would not see a greater impact on the personal or fiscal issues of Mr. Miguel Alemán with the Interjet issue,” he says. According to his calculations, this legal process will start in a couple of months at the latest. The litigant considers that it is feasible for the airline to take off again the following year.

Pablo Casas, director of the National Aeronautical Legal Research Institute (Inija), is less optimistic. “Interjet will not fly again,” he says. The sector specialist acknowledges that employees have been the first to be affected by the airline crisis, second will come suppliers and government entities such as the Tax Administration Service (SAT) and, finally, the thousands of customers who were left with company tickets.

“Interjet ended up being a company of low cost poorly managed, poorly managed. Interjet is not broke by the pandemic, it is a coincidence in the times. It was a set of mistakes from the lines low cost that went to give into the hands of businessmen with ignorance of the industry, who tried to manage aviation from a desk, also under the protection of relations with the authorities and it was made easy for them, not to say a hobbie, getting into aviation, that was the mistake ”, ditch.

While the spotlights focus on the whereabouts of the former Interjet captain, now a fugitive from justice, the striking workers and creditors of the company await the bankruptcy process and the possible arrest of Alemán Magnani amid uncertainty and expectation. All in the hopes of dodging the specter of bankruptcy. “Mr. President AMLO, it is not fair that they repeat history as in Mexicana. Corrupt businessmen and the complicity of the AICM make the situation of the Interjet workers be forgotten ”, reads one of the protest cartels. More than 180 days after the strike broke out, the complaints of the workers accumulate and the hopelessness to take off again, to regain their employment languishes.

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