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November 29, 2020

Those who sank PSM will now politicise issue: 95pc Pakistan Steel workers to be laid off: Hammad

Top Story

November 29, 2020

By News report

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar Saturday said the government had to take the "tough decision" of sacking over 95 percent Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) employees, warning that those who sank the institution will do politics over it now.

The minister said state-owned entities were inflicting losses of around Rs200 billion on the national exchequer, which was more than the defence budget of the country.

Azhar said the PSM had been closed for the last five and half a years, while the government had to pay salaries and pensions of billions of rupees to the employees for nothing.

He said the operational capacity of the PSM was reduced to 40% during the PPP government while the current government registered a loss of around Rs100 billion.

He said the PPP during its tenure inducted thousands of employees in the mills which was beyond its capacity.

Likewise, he added, during the PML government the operational capacity was further reduced from 40% to 20% and then to 6% and ultimately it was closed down in 2015.

"In 2008, the PSM was a profit-making institution," he said, adding that the same year, the steel mills had Rs8 billion in its account.

The minister said if the previous governments had taken timely decisions, then billions in salaries and pensions won’t have to be paid to the PSM employees.

"If the same money was spent on different sectors, thousands of jobs would have been created by now," he said.

He said the fired PSM employees will be given, on average, Rs2.3 million per employee.

"Rs10 billion has to be paid to 4,500 employees of the Pakistan Steel Mills," he said.

Meanwhile, the PSM employees staged a protest on the National Highway in Karachi against their sacking. The protesters burnt tyres at the Steel Town Chowk in Karachi, bringing the traffic to a halt.

Meanwhile, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Saturday slammed the government for sacking 4,500 workers of the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM).

Bilawal, who was in self-isolation after testing positive for coronavirus, took to twitter to condemn the sacking of PSM workers and said the PPP will reinstate everyone.

He said the land of this historical industrial asset belonged to the people of Sindh and the PPP will not let the PTI commit this economic murder.

“Sack Imran, not workers,” he said.

Slamming the government for sacking 4,544 PSM employees, PPP Parliamentary Leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman said the decision to sack the employees with immediate effect under the guise of reducing financial burden on Pakistan's largest steel-making plant should be immediately taken back.

“We are going through a pandemic and taking away livelihoods should be the last thing that the government should be doing,” she said, adding that this decision reeked of ulterior motives as it was clear that the government wanted to sell the PSM.

On the one hand, she said the prime minister talked about reviving the state institutions, on the other his cabinet was taking such decisions.

“We are going through unprecedented times and firing people during this pandemic is cruel. The government should be focusing on providing relief instead,” she added.

She said, “Tabahi Sarkar” has once again taken a U-turn on its promises. Instead of creating 100 crore jobs, they are taking away livelihoods at a time when food insecurity is the highest in Pakistan. We rank 88th out of the 107 countries in the 2020 Global Hunger Index,” she said.

According to the IMF, Sherry said close to 90 million people were expected to fall into extreme deprivation this year while Pakistan’s unemployment rate was expected to rise to 5.1 per cent.

“How can the federal government fire employees at a time of extreme inflation and unprecedented levels of unemployment?” she questioned.

She said this abrupt, brutal and unethical move clearly reflected the federal government’s myopia and disregard for democratic norms and consultations. There are millions whose livelihood is indirectly connected to the Pakistan Steel Mills.

“It should have been discussed transparently and constructively with at least the stakeholders,” she said.

She said in the World Economic Outlook (WEO) report of 2020, the IMF projected Pakistan’s growth rate at only 1pc, which was the lowest in the region.

“How is our economy improving again?" she questioned and said privatizing institutions was not the solution, as it was obvious that the government was doing it to hide its incompetence.

She said instead of providing relief and support, the federal government was adamant on firing employees in times of job uncertainty.

“The PPP rejects this move. The same incompetence has led to severe wheat and sugar shortages in the country,” she said.