EMPLOYEES of the Pakistan International Airlines observed a countrywide strike on Tuesday against the proposed privatisation of the national flag carrier.
The employees kept the PIA offices closed throughout the day, but the management insisted that the flight operations remained unaffected and no revenue losses were incurred.
The Joint Action Committee of PIA employees had called the strike.
It said the protest would continue and there would be no “compromise” until the government took back its decision to privatise PIA, after the protesting employees were offered by the management to get the issue resolved through talks.
In Karachi, employees suspended regular work and attended protest which was part of the countrywide campaign called by the JAC – an alliance of different PIA workers unions – to resist the privatisation move.
“Our protest will continue till the withdrawal of the Pakistan International Airlines Corporation (Conversion) Ordinance, 2015,” said Capt Sohail Baloch of the JAC.
“We don’t accept any offer for talks from the PIA management which is being conveyed [to us] time and again. Our demand is very clear and straight. We don’t want privatisation at any cost — that’s it.”
In Lahore, employees staged a demonstration and PIA’s main Egerton Road office observed a complete strike.
A number of customers who visited the office had to return after the airline’s employees told them that work would remain suspended the whole day.
Employees threaten to suspend flight operations if the decision to privatise the airline is not withdrawn
More than 100 customers visit the main office daily for booking and change of their tickets.
“I have come here for getting the date of my ticket for Dubai changed, but the employees are on strike for an indefinite period. I am told by a protesting employee to go to Lahore airport as its office is open there,” customer Waheed Ahmed told Dawn. He said he was not sure if the employees at the airport would cooperate with him.
While PIA customers have alternative booking options such as online or through travel agents, they have to visit a PIA office in case they need to make any changes in their ticket.
The PIA employees said if the decision to privatise the airline was not withdrawn by Feb 2, they would suspend flight operations too.
“All the employees are united. The government backtracked on its commitment and we are left with only one option, that is to suspend the flight operations,” a protesting employee told Dawn.
In Rawalpindi, the main booking office remained partially closed and regular work at the airport’s facilities remained disturbed because of the strike.
The protest forced the management to change the venue for interviews for jobs in PIA’s security and vigilance department from the airport to Convention Centre.
A PIA spokesman claimed that the strike had not affected the airline’s revenue and flight operations. He said that regular work at offices across the country suffered due to the strike call, as most of the facilities remained closed.
In reply to a question about the warning of employees to bring the airline’s operations to a standstill from the next week, he said the management had already made an offer to the JAC to resolve the issue through talks, but it was rejected by employees’ representatives.
“We have also requested them to keep their protest away from flight operations and other key areas of the airline which will ultimately affect the passengers,” he added.
Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2016