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Privatisation of profitable units will be counter-productive.

Privatisation of Profitable Units will be Counter-Productive - Shahid

Economic Review: How will you describe labour-management relations in Pakistan with special reference to PSO? Shahid Ali Khan: We have been successful in maintaining cordial labour-management relations in PSO through our struggle and devotion. In establishing healthy relations we have made a lot of sacrifices. Negation of self projection and adoption of non-confrontational path are the basic factors behind it. PSO is an essential National Institution and backbone of the industry, it cannot withstand pressures. We have never made wages conditional to our services or integrity of the institution. PSO occupies the top position in our dedication, rest are the secondary issues. We always adopted respectable and responsible attitude to sort out the solution of our problems across the table. We take the PSO Chief as the leaders of the whole organisation, not as the head of management or a particular group.

In our view it is the privilege of the PSO Chief to be respected. Even in controversial matters where it had been our prerogative to be more vocal we avoided roughness. We have clearly conveyed to the management that we would not misbehave. If such a situation ever arises we would record our resentment through other forums. This is a positive approach on trade union front, though it is contrary to the established conventions of trade union activities in Pakistan. This has paid us dividend. We don't believe in establishing the parallel management in PSO. In our opinion trade union is an advocate of workers. The irony is that people in Pakistan are not firmly committed to their profession. Similar is the case on trade union front. Unfortunately trade union leaders avoid speaking the truth. They are professionals without commitment. These leaders lack education as a result unable to educate the workers. The management in our country is well ahead in experience and education as compared to our labour leaders. But in PSO the situation is quite reverse. The CBA has outclassed management because of its constant experience of 18 years. But the overall labour-management relations in Pakistan are not cordial.

ER: What are your views about the privatisation policy of government in relation to PSO. SAK: We don't condemn the privatisation policy, initiated by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in totality. Sick units need not to be retained by the government. But it is unwise to disinvest profitable units of national importance where workers are discharging duties with utmost zeal, management and efficiency is excellent and profits are substantial. Secondly, PSO is also important defence-wise. PSO is responsible for 70 per cent oil supply needs of the country. Its role was significant during Gulf-war when the oil supplies were managed excellently. But there could be a crisis of more graver intensity in future. During war oil remains the most useful instrument. As such PSO should remain in State control to meet national demands.

Thirdly, industries are being dis-invested because of mismanagement, inefficiency and losses. PSO, since its inception is a profitable unit whose profits increase each year. The after-tax profit is 200 million. The price of its share of Rs. 10/-stands at about Rs. 72/-on stock market. 100 per cent income tax is paid without any leakage. Tax levies paid to government stood at Rs. 5,800.97 million in the year 1990. Could this tax be received after privatisation of PSO? After disinvestment profitability factor would dominate national interests. PSO has an excellent professional management, this can not be guaranteed under private cover. The Ministry of Petroleum has also been recommended not to disinvest PSO. Upholding the recommendation the CBA Union adopted a resolution and sent it to the concerned authorities elaborating the demerits of privatisation.

ER: Why the labour policy is not being announced. What is it likely to contain. SAK: In the past the labour policy was not constituted because of the influence of the industrialists. Now they themselves have taken over the charge. Under the present circumstances it is unwise to expect labour policy which provides guarantees to the workers. The major stumbling block in way is the hire and fire right. The employers want to get it incorporated in the new labour policy. The working community is unwilling to give such a big concession to the employer. This is the bone of contention between the two. And there is no possibility of any compromise on the issue. Ultimately there is no likelihood of labour policy during the tenure of present government.

ER: How will you comment on the ethnic divide in Sindh on labour front. SAK: The ethnic divide first penetrated into our political system, later it appeared on trade union front. Sindh became its victim because of the influx of migrants from India and upcountry having different cultures and educational levels. Secondly, the Sindh interior is the worst poverty-hit province as compared to other provinces. The educated youth of the rural areas were side tracked by the feudals. In fact linguistic organisations are the reactions against oppression which have been capitalised. Sense of deprivation among various communities having different cultures played a vital role in giving birth to these organisations in Sindh.

Another factor was the anti-Islamic forces which were bent-upon to disintegrate Islamic unity through conning slogans which had an apparent charm in that situation. Islamabad's catalyst role was also significant. The rulers perpetuated their rule through fanning divisive approaches. The situation in PSO is different. We condemn such attitudes in PSO. We fought five referendums on merit in PSO without aligning ourselves with any political or linguistic organisation. However, we never snatched the right of our workers to have their political affiliations outside PSO. Within PSO our workers behave like the family member. We are of the firm view that ethnic factor if takes root in PSO, would damage not only the workers unity and national character of the organisation, but national character of the organisation, but it would also be the negation of two nations theory, the very basis of Pakistan, and Islamic values.

ER: How will you comment on contract labour system? SAK: Contract labour is deplorable in institutions whose financial base is strong and could bear the liabilities of workers. Such institutes avoid permanent jobs to increase profitability. Under the contract system workers are deliberately deprived of their lawful rights. Insecure job condition is created for financial gains. Secondly, the employers are of the view that the contract labour discharge duties with greater efficiency. We have minimised contract labour in PSO. There are only 16 workers engaged on contract labour in PSO under dire necessity.

Textile industry is the worst hit sector where the contract labour has deep roots. Contract labour has a justification where the base is weak enough to withstand financial pressures. But this is unfortunate that even against permanent nature jobs temporary workers are recruited. This is the violation of the labour laws. Labour department's responsibility is to check malpractices and bring such elements to books. But our national dilemma is that, institution entrusted the responsibility of implementing laws involve itself in corruption. It is also regrettable that the labour organisations never took initiative jointly to abolish contract system.

ER: Are you satisfied with wage structure and fringe benefits in PSO? SAK: To a greater extent the wage structure and fringe benefits are satisfactory. Our workers are prosperous. The average indirect wage increase last year was Rs. 1,000/- per worker, as per our agreement with the management. Salaries are reasonable. Medical facilities and other fringe benefits are good. This is the outcome of our continuous struggle.

ER: What do you foresee on labour frontin future.

SAK: The exploitation of workers during Ayub era united them. They launched a successful agitation and ousted Ayub Khan and got some concessins under IRO 1969. Bhutto government after nationalisation provided job securities to the workers along with financial gains. The workers become inactive and the trade unions became impotent. Since IRO 1969 there was no positive legislation on labour front.

After the completion of privatisation process of the present government there will be an upheaval on mass scale because of retrenchment and high-handedness of industrialists in the denationalised industries. The denationalisation will act as a catalyst to reactive labour movement in Pakistan. No political party today enjoys the support of workers as a whole. Moreover workers have no plattform at this stage. We believe that in days ahead workers will play a vital role in national politics.

Shahid Ali Khan, President, PSO Workmen Union (CBA) is a vocal trade-unionist. He has no political affiliation whatsover. He joined PIA in 1960 and was sacked in 1965 because of trade union activities. Shahid Ali Khan joined PSO in 1966 and was elected as President, PSO Workmen Union in 1974. Since then he is holding the portfolio and won four referendums out of five. There are about 2300 employees out of which 1,500 are unionised workers. Economic Review interviewed Shahid Ali Khan on various labour issues. Following are the excerpts:
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Title Annotation:interview with Shahid Ali Khan, president, PSO Workmen Union CBA
Author:Raza, Moosi
Publication:Economic Review
Article Type:Interview
Date:Sep 1, 1991
Words:1501
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