LAHORE: The Pakistan Railways (PR) claims that following the rule of social distancing, the railways’ carriage factories have already slashed their working staff up to 50pc.

“A limited staff is engaged in repairing passenger coaches, manufacturing essential components for the train operations along with periodic maintenance of plant and machinery. Complete closure of such works can inflict losses worth billions,” reads a press release issued on Wednesday.

It says that the railways has adopted all possible precautionary measures to reduce Covid-19 spread risk as employees have been exempted from biometric attendance.

“They are screened daily for fever through thermo-scanner. They have been provided facial masks, hand gloves, soaps and sanitisers for safe working. In short all the SOPs of social distancing and coronavirus preventions are being undertaken by factories and Headquarters’ offices,” it claims.

It says that official working time has also been reduced to 27 hours a week. As the federal government departments are working as per new schedule / timings, the railways being federal department cannot shut down its offices and factories completely. Moreover, currently 40 freight trains are moving in the country throughout railways system,” it says.

On the other hand, the Railways Workers Union (CBA) has rejected the claims, stating the only option to protect the workers from Covid-19 is a shutdown.

“All workers, except those retired recently, are working regularly. So it is impossible to adopt precautionary measures in a situation where over 15,000 workers (5,000 to 7,000 in Lahore alone) are gathering for performing various jobs. So the PR authorities’ claim of slashing 50 per cent staff and ensuring social distancing is incorrect,” union central president Mian Khalid Mehmood told Dawn.

Published in Dawn, April 2nd, 2020