Islamabad [Pakistan], January 1 (ANI): With Pakistan International airline (PIA) implemented its decision to cut its existing workforce in half and move the national airline headquarters from Karachi to Islamabad at the end of January but current and former officials saw the whole development as a move to sack the maximum number of staff especially those living in Sindh and Balochistan.
In fact, PIA requires Parliament’s approval for relocation. But employees consider the decision to be politically motivated by Imran Khan’s government. This is clear enough even when the country’s top spy agency is being used as a tool to silence dissenting voices.
Employees said that management has moved about 800 employees from all groups to Islamabad from Karachi and, because of this, most of the Sindhi and Urdu-speaking employees chose the Voluntary Separation Scheme (VSS) instead of going to a city that was much more expensive than Karachi, as reported by Dawn.
CEO of PIA Retired Marshal Arshad Malik, who was supported by Pakistan The Tehreek-i-Insaf government has so far fired more than 900 people on disciplinary grounds for their alleged involvement in corruption, false titles and other charges.
Meanwhile, PIA Officers Association Secretary General Safdar Anjum claimed the only reason behind the relocation decision was Air Marshal Malik and his fellow advisers, whom he brought from Pakistan The Air Force, as representative, has homes and families in it Islamabad.
“Whatever the intentions, one thing is clear that the anti-worker move makes Prime Minister Imran Khan and PTI very unpopular,” said a senior PIA official.
According to Dawn, PIA is moving forward with plans to cut its existing workforce in half and move the national airline’s headquarters from Karachi to Islamabad at the end of January although it required Parliament approval to do so.
Representatives of employees, officers, pilots and engineers advised that none of them be taken over by management before and after deciding to move the airline’s headquarters and hubs to Islamabad from Karachi and added that management cannot shift headquarters without the approval of the parliament which must change Pakistan International airline Corporation (PIAC) (Conversion) Act, 2016.
Section 7 (2) of the PIAC Act reads: “The head office of the Company and its subsidiaries conducting air transportation business will be in Karachi.”
“There is no single valid reason to justify moving from either the headquarters or the airline’s hub from Karachi to Islamabad, “said Safdar Anjum, Secretary General of the PIA Officers Association, as quoted by Dawn, who opposed the management led by retired Air Marshal Arshad Malik (CEO).
“Karachi is a unique place where the entire PIA network of organizations is located within a two-three kilometer area. It has the Ispahani Hangar, a complete engineering system. It would be wise to close the hangar, outsource some other work and provide engineering to PAF just to relocate the head office to Islamabad? “He asked.
PIA management has rejected all allegations and called it politically motivated.
“PIA has moved its operational and supporting offices to Islamabad due to inherent shifts in travel demographics. Previously, the majority of PIA’s traffic originating from Karachi was the country’s largest trading center and city but now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and its surrounding areas account for a large proportion of the workforce in the Gulf countries and adjacent areas Northeast GT Road and AJK contribute maximum traffic to Europe, Britain and the Far East, ”said PIA spokesman Abdullah Hafeez Khan, as quoted by Dawn.
“So it is only natural that PIA, to target this segment, should increase its presence in the north. With the increase in operations, the demand for manpower has also increased. It is now impossible to keep the workforce concentrated in Karachi while operating from the north,” he added.
Moreover, the decision has political implications, such as Pakistan People’s Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari promised to include PIA workers in the opposition’s anti-government campaign. The PPP-supported Community Union is the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agency) in PIA but many of its opponents have accused the CBA of not doing what it should have done, namely to protect workers’ interests and instead its leaders have been showered with assistance by incumbent management.
The Air League, a workers’ body associated with Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, called relocation headquarters to Islamabad an “undemocratic and anti-people”.
Another broad consequence of moving headquarters is that local residents will be affected, Pakistan The Air Line Pilots Association (Palpa) said local residents would lose their jobs because most of the employees were unable to leave Karachi.
Dawn further reported that PIA currently has 14,500 employees and in early December, PIA introduced the Voluntary Separation Scheme (VSS) with a target of laying off 3,500 workers.
“Employees have experienced tremendous stress by posting to Islamabad“in the shortest possible time so they can take advantage of the VSS,” said a Palpa spokesman. Mr Anjum from the Officers’ Association and spokesman for Palpa said VSS was not a new scheme as it was offered twice during different administrations.
“Nobody can refuse a pension scheme as long as it remains voluntary,” said Anjum, adding: “But VSS is not voluntary because employees are harassed and intimidated.”
“An atmosphere of fear and fear has been created so that employees have opted out out of fear of the VSS; this includes selective leakage of documents, Mandatory Separation Schemes, forced transfers, relocation of headquarters, lowering of basic rights and benefits, and so on – called performance-based profiles, leading to on employee layoffs, “said a Palpa spokesperson. (ANI)