PIA staff to strike on Tuesday

Published: February 1, 2016
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PHOTO: REUTERS

PHOTO: REUTERS

KARACHI: 

Employees of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) have decided to go on strike on February 2 after their talks with the government collapsed. The impending protest might result in cancellation of all flights and blockade of airports around the country.

The announcement came on Sunday following last-minute negotiations between PIA’s union leaders and government officials that saw emotions running high and one of the key labour leaders breaking down in tears before a news conference.

PIA privatisation: Unions to shut offices across country from tomorrow

“We hope the government will come to the negotiating table in the coming days as we are ready to reach an amicable solution,” said Sohail Baloch, the president of the Joint Action Committee of PIA Employees. “We sincerely apologise to passengers but this is something we are doing to save the national flag carrier.”

The labour leaders took the decision after the government refused to commit to keeping PIA as a completely government-run organisation. The ruling PML-N has already introduced a controversial law to convert the airline into a public limited company.

But on January 29, the government announced putting off PIA’s sell-off for six months and requested the workers to end their protest. The employees have been taking out rallies almost daily for the past 55 days when the agitation first began against planned privatisation.

If the strike goes through, the employees will walk away from all departments at 7am on Tuesday. Until now the union-led staff has staged small protests, affecting just the back office work. Though PIA’s own ticketing offices were shut for a few days, it did not impact ticket sales, which are mostly booked through travel agents.

Last Friday, government representatives, including PML-N’s Mushahidullah Khan, met PIA union leaders in a last-ditch effort to find a way out of the deadlock. But the meeting remained inconclusive.

PIA sell-off ordinance converted into bill

Even though Mushahid, who also heads the Senate Special Committee on PIA, told a news conference the sell-off date has been extended, he could not pacify the unions, which want withdrawal of the privatisation bill and revision of Pakistan’s liberal aviation policy.

At the same news conference, however, the senator warned the government could invoke the Essential Services Act of 1952, which will make any labour union activity illegal.

Nasir Janjua, the general secretary of the Collective Bargaining Agent, who met Mushahid on behalf of the unions, regretted his own political party was threatening them with using a law abused by dictators. “It was a sad day for me,” recalled Janjua, who belongs to PML-N’s trade union wing. “It came from a man who held rallies against Pervez Musharraf.”

The PIA unions are also in talks with lawyers to pre-empt the use of the Essential Services Act by moving the Supreme Court.

No end in sight to PIA pilots’ strike

Moments before Sunday’s news conference, Sohail had barged out of an internal meeting of the union leaders sobbing incessantly. “There is a lot of pressure from the government to back off but it’s too late,” he told the media. “There are thousands of employees who earn Rs14,000 to Rs30,000 and they are all looking up to us.”

Published in The Express Tribune, February 1st,  2016.

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Reader Comments (6)

  • Sodomite
    Feb 1, 2016 - 9:36AM

    I salute the Unions in preventing corrupt and rapacious politicians bent on steeling the nations assets in collusion with their cronies like Mansha etc., Unions are right in asking to end Open Skies that spawned Gulf carriers in direct competition with PIA. Not a single privatization has succeeded in making peoples lives any better and all Politicians have huge assets in London, Dubai and Switzerland. From where have these fortunes arisen?? . Recommend

  • DevilHunterX
    Feb 1, 2016 - 10:23AM

    Fire them all. Why should my tax money go to these bloodsuckers?! Unions only destroy and never have done anything for the organization or the country as a whole.Recommend

  • Feb 1, 2016 - 11:28AM

    privatization is the only solution to making this organization effective and efficient. It has just become a political hiring ground.Recommend

  • Haji Atiya
    Feb 1, 2016 - 11:54AM

    @Sodomite:
    I salute nothing, but while we are at it let’s build a colossal all-inclusive monument to systemic corruption that is the perennial bane of this country.Recommend

  • Khalid Khan
    Feb 1, 2016 - 3:51PM

    Just like the PTCL when the entity;s 26% were privatized for some $ 2 or 2.5 billion all the PTCK’s prime property worth billions of $ was also given for free. similarly PIA has prime property worth billions of dollars will be given for free by another dis honest government government.Recommend

  • Farukh Malik
    Feb 1, 2016 - 7:21PM

    I have a simple solution to all of our problems, put all corrupt polititions in a big cargo ship
    ( we need big vessel while we have enough) send them on holidays to Bermuda Triangle and set then free.
    god bless our countryRecommend

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