- Senator Mushahidullah says no official will be terminated, perks and privileges of employees will remain intact
- Says govt cannot be blackmailed, urges protesting employees to resolve issue through dialogue rather than opting for extreme action like strikes
- Administrative affairs come to halt as employees continue with countrywide protests for fourth consecutive day
The government on Friday suspended its plan for privatisation of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) for a period of six months after the striking employees conveyed to negotiators for the government that they would not accept any offer except the return of the bill approved by the National Assembly converting the airline to a commercial entity.
The protest of PIA employees against privatisation of the national flag carrier continued for the fourth consecutive day on Friday. Administrative affairs were disrupted as strikers closed PIA offices across the country.
A massive sit-in was staged outside the PIA head-office in Karachi and later the protesting employees took out a rally from the head-office to the airport. A large number of female workers also took part in the protest rally.
The protestors held a demonstration at the entrance gate of the airport, as a result of which the route coming to the airport had to be shut down. Long queues of vehicles could be seen whereas the passengers had to travel a distance of 1.5 kilometres by foot along with their children and heavy luggage to reach the airport.
During their talks with a government team, the protesting employees made it clear that no condition would be accepted other than the return of the privatisation bill approved by the assembly stripping the PIA of the status of a state-owned entity.
Addressing a press conference at the Aviation Division, Chairman Senate Special Committee on Performance of PIA Mushahidullah Khan said the government had deferred the process of finding a strategic partner for PIA for six months and urged the employees to call-off their strike and solve issues on negotiating table.
Mushahidullah said issues should be resolved through dialogue rather than opting for any extreme action like strikes.
He said the government was making sincere efforts to revive the economic situation of the financially depressed organizations.
He said rights of PIA employees would be protected and their perks and privileges, salaries and gratuity would never be affected in the new plan for reviving the national flag carrier.
He made it clear that the government would go to any extent in protecting employees’ rights, but it would never accept any kind of blackmailing.
The Senator said essential services Act would be invoked, if matters were not solved through dialogue.
Answering a question, he expressed the hope that PIA employees would resume their routine work following the government’s decision and perform their duties dedicatedly to get the national flag carrier out of crisis.
Meanwhile, at a high level meeting held here, it was agreed that government expects union leaders to support PIA’s management in reviving the national flag carrier so that the good work done during the last two and a half years was taken forward.
The meeting observed that because of the strike by PIA employees, the people of Pakistan were suffering. Besides, the national airline was suffering losses worth more than Rs 500 million. This situation was bringing a bad name to the country and its reputation, and it could not be tolerated.
Pakistan plans to privatise its national carrier by July, following years of crushing losses and mismanagement that have battered the airline’s reputation.
The government in December last year converted PIA to a “commercial entity” through an ordinance, but stopped short of announcing its privatisation plans.
The move sparked a fierce backlash from nearly 15,000 PIA employees who rallied at major airports across the country.
PIA’s cumulative losses were Rs 227 billion ($2.2 billion) as of June 2014. The government has to inject Rs 12 to Rs 15 billion annually to keep the airline alive and pay employees.
PIA, one of the world’s leading airlines until the 1970s, now suffers from frequent cancellations and delays and has been involved in numerous controversies over the years, including the jailing of a drunk pilot in Britain in 2013. PIA has also faced problems acquiring security clearances to the European Union for cargo flights. The airline has also traditionally handed out tens of thousands of free tickets each year, contributing to its losses.