Friday June 21, 2024

Govt-PIA employees action committee hold talks

By Salman Siddiqui
February 06, 2016

To meet again today; minister wants operations restored for talks; union leader says flights to remain suspended till talks succeed

KARACHI: The government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan International Airlines' pilots on strike resumed talks after one-week on Friday. However, the flight operations of the national flag carrier would remain suspended till the talks become successful.

"Flight operations would remain suspended till we get an applicable outcome from this new round of talks," said Captain Sohail Baloch, leader of the Joint Action Committee of PIA employees against privatization.

He said this at a brief joint press conference at the end of the first round of talks with the government. Also present at the conference were Muhammad Zubair, Minister of State for Privatization, and PML-N Senator Nihal Hashmi.

Zubair, however, said at the conference they would formally kick-start the talks once the PIA flight operations were restored. The two sides would meet again today (Saturday). "Our privatization plan is all about the betterment of the airlines, its employees and for retention of employees… when we will sit together we will explain all this to them (PIA employees)," Zubair added. "We want to restore PIA to its days of glories in the 60s and 70s."

Captain Baloch added "Our (the government and PIA protesters} goals are the same but ways are different…we also want betterment of PIA and its employees." Hundreds of passengers with confirmed tickets of Pakistan International Airlines remained stranded at various airports on the fourth day of the suspended flight operations on Friday.

Earlier, Pakistan Air Line Pilots' Association suspended the flight operations for an indefinite period on Tuesday (February 2) evening after their two colleagues lost their lives in an anti-privatization rally marching towards the Jinnah International Airport, Karachi, in the morning.

The Pakistan International Airlines has incurred a loss of over Rs2 billion in the 11-day closure of its offices, including training and ticketing offices, nationwide. With this, "the accumulated losses of the airlines have jumped to around Rs300 billion," said Miftah Ismail, a key aide of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in a private TV talk show.

The PIA management tried its best to get their passengers boarded on  planes of its rivals through an understanding with Airblue and Shaheen airlines on domestic routes and with Etihad Ariways of UAE, Turkish and Saudi Airlines on international routes. However, their efforts were in vain when almost all the airlines denied boarding to PIA ticket holders on their flights.

"We have no such directives to accommodate the PIA passengers," replied a customer services representative of the Airblue at the Jinnah International Airport, Karachi. When contacted, the response of a customer services representative of Shaheen Airlines at the airport was similar to the Airblue's official.

The situation with PIA's international passengers was not different, it was learnt. "One of my relatives is to join his office in Toronto, Canada, next Monday (February 8). However, it would take him at least four-six weeks time if he chooses to fly under PIA's alternate airlines arrangements," he said.

Friday was the 11th consecutive day when the anti-privatization protesters kept shut all the offices of the airlines nationwide though the federal government has invoked the Essential Services (Maintenance) Act 1952 for six months for PIA, which bars union activities, and demanded workers to perform duties. The government invoked the act with effect from Monday (February 1).