ISLAMABAD: As the protest continued for the second day against the summary dismissal of 130 employees, the top management of the army-run Canteen Stores Department (CSD) was forced out of their offices through plugging off the electricity.
The CSD also suffered a loss in millions as the main server connecting the headquarters with 140 retail stores throughout Pakistan for payment transaction and other important communications remained down for second day halting work at CSD shops throughout Pakistan.
The CSD management had summarily dismissed 130 regular and contractual employees at the start of this week sparking resentment of great magnitude. The Managing Director Maj Gen (R) Anwar Saeed confirmed to The News that no work could be done on Tuesday due to the protests of sacked employees that, he acknowledged, had been joined by other colleagues in a display of solidarity with them. The terminated employees at Lahore and Peshawar stations also attended the protest.
A hide and seek game continued during the work on the issue of electricity as the angry protesters plugged off the main switch in order to force the top management come out and listen to their demands. As they would come out, negotiate for a while trying to calm them down, the top management would return to their offices by plugging in the main switch. The moment they sat in their offices, plugs were pulled off again by the protesters. They also disabled the generators, the alternative energy source.
The main server, the only source of contact for transactions with the retail stores, too was down disconnecting the headquarters with its profitable stores. It has been learnt that two-day strikes by all and sundry at the headquarters have caused a loss of millions of rupees.
The MD acknowledged to The News that no productive activity could be carried out as the headquarters staff remained on strike against the lay-offs. He said he was ready to reconsider the cases of terminated employees one by one, a demand rejected by the protesters as, they say, the list of discrimination is long enough and could not be settled this way.
Other than demanding the reinstatement of all sacked employees, the protesting officials have also called for pay-raise and promotion of the civilian employees that have been blocked for several years.
The CSD is a chain of 140 retail stores that serve the armed forces personnel, civil employees, residents and their dependents throughout the country. A serving lieutenant general, Quarters Master General who sits in the GHQ, is the Chairman of the CSD. Its legal status is undetermined whether it falls under the control of Defence Ministry or is an autonomous body. Although its vehicles carry the number plates with ‘Ministry of Defence’ inscribed over them, however, the ministry officials dispute this claim.
All those issued the termination letter were asked not to come to office from Wednesday. The termination turned out to be a surprise bombshell as they were kept in the dark until the letters were delivered.
The protesting employees complained of discriminatory treatment to the civilians in terms of pay scales and privileges. They alleged a civilian shop manager receives from Rs20,000 to Rs25,000 per month. Now retired colonels have been inducted against the same positions at Rs55,000 in addition to facilities such as a new car.