KARACHI: Negotiations between the government and striking employees of Pakistan International Airlines made limited progress, with the national carrier unable to resume flights on Thursday evening as had been previously announced.
Earlier in the day, the airline announced that negotiations had made progress and that they expected flights to resume on Thursday evening, beginning with the 10 pm flight from Lahore to Karachi. However, that flight was also cancelled. It remains unclear when regular flights will resume. The spokesperson was not available for comment after the cancellation of the evening flight.
Negotiations between the government and PIA employees are still continuing.
A company spokesperson said that after a meeting between Interior Minister Rehman Malik and the leader of the striking employees, Captain Sohail Baluch, head of the pilots’ union, the protesters will no longer prevent any PIA employees from resuming their normal activities.
In a statement released to the press, PIA said that the union had agreed to continue their protests in a designated area and not make any attempts to disrupt the normal operations of the airline or make any use of force or intimidation against employees who did not support the strike.
Some incidents of violence were reported at Karachi Airport on Wednesday when reports first surfaced of a breakdown in the talks between the government and the unions.
Strike action has paralysed PIA for the past three days, with up to 25,000 passengers stranded on Thursday as the troubled state carrier said it had cancelled over 200 flights since the strike began on Tuesday.
Staff oppose management plans to farm out European and US routes to Turkish Airlines, in an effort to rescue the airline from bankruptcy.
They want the plan scrapped and the managing director sacked.
PIA says at least 90 flights have been cancelled since the strike began on Tuesday, including to Britain, the Middle East, Europe and Asia.
“We have cancelled around 60 flights today, which includes 10 international flights – among those scheduled for Birmingham, London, Dubai, Kabul, Kathmandu and Dhaka,” PIA spokesman Mashhood Tajwar told AFP earlier on Thursday.
The national airline stated that it has lost up to Rs1 billion in revenues since the strike began.
The company’s stock has rallied almost 20 per cent on the Karachi Stock Exchange since the announcement of the deal with Turkish Airlines.
The stock has remained relatively flat since the strike began, closing Thursday’s trading at Rs2.74 per share.
WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING FROM AFP
Published in The Express Tribune, February 11th, 2011.
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