ISLAMABAD: In a bid to placate workers, the government on Friday said it had put on hold plans of engaging a strategic partner for the beleaguered national carrier by six months.
Ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Senator Mushahidullah Khan, who is also the chairman of a Senate Special Committee on Performance of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), announced the high-level decision at a hurriedly conducted news press conference at the Aviation Division in Islamabad on Friday, adding that the airline’s management had six more months to improve performance.
The government had on January 22 bulldozed a bill through the National Assembly under which PIA would be transformed from corporation to a corporate company, allowing the government to sell off a significant chunk of the airlines to a ‘strategic partner’.
It had prompted PIA’s workers’ unions to stage a protest by closing all offices of the airlines across the country from January 26. While flights were not disturbed, workers had threatened to halt flight operations from February 2 if the government did not roll back the bill.
On Friday, the government decided to put the bill’s implementation on hold for six months.
Khan said that the process of finding a strategic partner for the airlines had been halted. “Employees of the airlines may immediately call off the strike.”
He went on to assure that the government would protect the rights of workers and that there would be no lay-offs. While inviting employees to resolve issues through dialogue, he warned them that blackmail would not be accepted.
The decision to halt the hunt for a strategic partner was taken during a high-level meeting at the PM House on Friday.
According to an official statement, Premier Nawaz Sharif had chaired the meeting shortly before Khan’s press conference, in which they deliberated over options to stave off the strike.
During the meeting it was agreed that union leaders would be expected to support PIA’s management in reviving the national flag carrier.
Further, it was reiterated that none of PIA’s employees would be laid off nor would they lose their financial benefits and would continue to have job security.
The meeting also agreed not to engage a strategic partner for the next six months but PIA would be expected to improve its performance during this period.
The meeting asserted that there would be no tolerance for strikes which cause economic losses to the airline in addition to affecting passengers and bringing a bad name to the country.
The meeting further decided that the government would not be blackmailed by PIA unions and associations and if strikes are not called off, PIA would be declared as part of essential services.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 30th, 2016.