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Denationalisation of PIA is against the national aspirations.

Economic Review: What is the major problem of workers in PIA and what is its remedy?

Aga Jafer: Career planning issue is on the top of the agenda. The resentment is widespread among 13 thousand unionised workers of PIA who are anxious to get ensured future prospects of promotions. After a year-long exercise the management accepted our rationale formula about career planning. Though the management agrees with us but unfortunately the case has been kept in doldrums on one or the other pretext. Now it has been linked with the Board meeting which has to accord its final approval if held luckily during our tenure. It is quite depressing that the Government influence in PIA has crossed all limits. Management, for the first time in PIA history, has deliberately been crippled to the extent that petty issues are referred to the Board or Ministry of Defence for final disposals. Result is that day to day problems remain unsolved. PIA management, because of its internal rifts compounded by the fear of high-ups annoyance, has completely lost initiatives. The only remedy to the problem is to thrust out government influence from PIA which is an autonomous body.

ER: How will you comment on Labour-Management Relations in PIA ?

AJ: PIA management on various occasions admitted itself in press media that such cordial Labour-Management relations never existed in PIA history before. it is because we never pressurised or misbehaved with the management. Even we did not victimize our arch opponents. We believe in solving issues through dialogue across the table. This is quite an experimental phase to judge whether a union could be run without applying pressure tactics. The relations were excellent during the period of Air Marshal Farooq Feroze Khan who took initiatives and pains to solve workers' problems. Unfortunately d started deteriorating since the departure of Air Marshal Feroze Khan. The present management probably because of government influence is gradually drifting away and not responding properly. Though we do not believe in confrontation but we reserve our right to behave the same way and to treat them in the same coin. We have the support of the workers who take us in high esteem and a vast majority appreciates our style of running trade-union with dignity.

ER: How many workers were sacked under MLR-52 during Zia's era ?

AJ: The number of total sacked employees was about 2400. Out of which 1500 were reinstated by NIRC during Benazir period. About 820 are still to be reinstated who belonged to Canteen, Building and Works and Horticulture Department. The government had taken the plea that these employees were given a |Golden Hand Shake' as such could not be reinstated. The case was then taken to NIRC which ordered their reinstatement. Even the Federal Labour Minister recommended reinstatement. The case, now, is pending with Prime Minister for final approval.

ER: How will you rate your performance as a trade-unionist?

AJ: Our historical achievement is the restoration of trade-union activities in PIA after a lapse of about 11 years. We struggled hard for years-together for the rights of PIA workers as a result sacked employees were taken in. Other unprecedented achievement is the bonus for contract labour. It has never been witnessed in the trade union history of Pakistan that contract workers got bonus. We are quite proud of this miracle. We got some more concessions for the workers. For instance deduction of house rent of employees residing in PIA Staff Colony was reduced to 35 per cent from 100 per cent. Group Insurance cover has been increased to 400 percent with more benefits and less deductions from March 1992. Employees with basic salary upto Rs. 1,500/ will have Rs. 2 lac insurance cover and above Rs. 1,500/- it will be 3 lac. Insurance age limit is relaxed upto 65 years from 60 and no premium is to be paid for the extra 5 years. The other 5 Associations of PIA appreciated and followed our efforts and got the same insurance benefits.

ER: What should the new Labour Policy contain?

AJ: Unfortunately we were not invited to the Tripartite Labour Conference, held 3 months back, despite being CBA. However, the PIA management was represented through GM Industrial Relations. Invitations to the conference were extended to the Labour leaders who were their blue-eyeds. Though we are not optimistic about the new Labour Policy but abolition of contract labour system should be the cornerstone of the incoming policy. irony is that the labour laws in our country are not practiced in letter and spirit. Even on permanent nature jobs contract labour is employed directly or indirectly for years together. It is a mockery of law. Contract labour should not be employed on permanent jobs. Those already working on contract should be given permanent status. in PIA contract is hired on permanent vacancies, categorised under Human Resource Budget, which is self-contradictory and is a clear violation of law.

ER: How will you comment on privatisation and denationalisation policy with particular reference to PIA?

AJ: Denationalisation is against the national interests and moreover it is also equivalent to economic slaughter of the workers. In a country where unemployment is touching unprecedented heights denationalisation would further aggravate the situation.

Today Industrial structure and the economy of the country is at the brink of disaster. Viable public sector units which provide tax revenues, employment and are betterly-managed as compared to counterparts in private sector, are being sold at throw away prices. Instances of western countries are quoted without considering the fact that the industrialists hold nationalist spirit there. They neither indulge in tax evasion nor keep the workers under inhuman conditions. Moreover those states provides unemployment allowance apart from other social securities. The negative approach of our industrialists is not a hidden fact. How the fake feasibility is prepared and how loans are drawn against it is an open secret.

The disinvestment of PIA is said to be on the cards. Various committees are believed to be working on those lines despite official denial. The resentment prevails among all categories of employees from pilots to lower cadre on the issue. We have conveyed our sentiments and are determined to resist such actions. There is no potential of a private airline in the country. Agha Khan after carrying out a comprehensive study decided to abandon the idea of parallel air line in the country. This is a glaring example that no private party could run an airline on subsidized rate within the country. PIA is not a commercial airline on domestic routes. We provide flight services on such subsidized rates that in some cases like Gilgit and Chitral the charges of take-off fuel is not recovered. It is also a fact that PIA is 35 per cent cheaper than Air lndia in some cases.

Now the pattern of privatisation has been changed and various departments like loading, kitchen and transport have been handed over on contract basis. As a result transport section is at the verge of collapse. The whole process apart from creating frustration is hampering productivity and is likely to encourage unhealthy practices. The denationalisation policy coupled with ban on recruitment is the indication that the government is not sincere towards workers. The resentment is widespread among workers.
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Title Annotation:Industrial Relations in Pakistan '92; Pakistan International Airlines Corp.; interview with Aga Jafer
Publication:Economic Review
Article Type:Interview
Date:May 1, 1992
Previous Article:Labour-management relations are in transitory phase.
Next Article:The labour policy should be realistic and equitable.

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