LAHORE: Railways labour unions on Wednesday denounced the public-private partnership venture for the new train system, Business Express Special, saying that the project will not be allowed to take off.
More than 2,500 members of seven labour unions from across the country gathered at the Railways Headquarters on Wednesday under the banner of Rail Mazdoor Ittehad to stage a sit-in against the government’s ‘inability’ to rescue the Railways.
Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, the National Assembly Standing Committee on Railways chairman, addressed the sit-in. He said Pakistan Railways was facing problems due to the ‘incompetence’ of the prime minister and the finance minister. “They arrived with a brief case. They will leave with one.”
Sadiq said that he had handed over the file ‘with evidence of corruption in Railways’ to the National Accountability Bureau after submitting it to the Supreme Court. He regretted that a Rs11.1 billion bail-out package had been approved by the federal government but the funds had not been released to the Pakistan Railways.
Hafiz Salman Butt, president of the Pakistan Railways Employees Movement Union, also rejected the public-private partnership.
PML-N MNA Khwaja Saad Rafiq also addressed the protesters and called for the resignation of Federal Minister Haji Ghulam Ahmed Bilour.
The labour leaders demanded regular promotions for skilled labourers, increase in salaries and hiring of the children of railway labourers. They also apposed payment of salaries through cheques and privatisation of the department.
The sit-in that started at around 10am, continued till 6pm in the presence of heavy police deployment. The entrance to the railways headquarter office were closed during the sit-in.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 22nd, 2011.