RAWALPINDI: The federal government on Wednesday extended the enforcement of the Essential Services Act, 1952 for a period of six months in the Pakistan International Airlines Company Limited (PIACL) to maintain smooth functioning of its flight operations, public safety and welfare of people.
A PIA spokesman said the aim to extend the Essential Services Act was to overcome difficulties being faced by the national flag carrier and to continue its flight operation uninterrupted during Covid-19.
He said the act will remain effective for a period of six months from Oct 28, 2020.
A notification issued by the Ministry of Interior said the federal government was of the opinion that employment in the PIACL was essential for maintenance of smooth functioning of flight operations, public safety and welfare.
“Now, therefore, in exercise of the powers conferred by the Pakistan Essential Services Act 1952, the federal government is pleased to declare all classes of employment in the Pakistan International Airlines Company Limited to be the classes of employment to which the said act shall apply for a period of six months with effect from October 28, 2020.”
Offences under the Act include disobeying any lawful order given in the course of such employment or attempts to persuade any person to disobey any such order or without reasonable excuse abandon such employment or absent himself from work or refuses to work or to continue to work, whether or not acting in combination with or under a common understanding of any other person engaged in such employment or departs from any area specified in an order under section of the Act without the consent of the authority making that order. Similarly, whoever instigates or incites any person engaged in any employment or class of employment, to which the Act applies, to commit an offence shall be deemed to have committed that offence.
Under the Essential Services Act, any person found guilty of an offence under the act shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term that may extend to one year and shall also be liable to fine.
In a letter to its employees, the PIA advised them to refrain from indulging in any activity that may tantamount to an offence under the said Act, failing which they become liable to prosecution in a court of law, besides disciplinary action under the PIACL rules.
Earlier on April 29, the federal government had implemented The Pakistan Essential Services (maintenance) Act, 1952 for a period of six months in order to “ensure uninterrupted operation of rescue, evacuation and repatriation of Pakistanis and other foreigners stranded in different countries” in the wake of coronavirus outbreak.
After the government implemented the said Act in April, the PIA said that in order to ensure uninterrupted and continual operation of rescue, evacuation and repatriation efforts, the PIACL services had been put under the Essential Services (Maintenance) Act 1952, with immediate effect and for a period of six months by the government.
It was hoped that through the implementation of this act, the departments and employees of the company would generate greater synergy in achieving the objective of complete repatriation of stranded Pakistanis across the world and the company would contribute positively to this National Service, which was a gigantic task considering the number of expatriate Pakistanis stranded abroad.
Demand for employees’ rights
Meanwhile, the general secretary of the PIA officers association, Safdar Anjum, said in a tweet that expansion of Essential Services Act in PIA was a manifestation of the cruel thinking of the present deputation administration.
“No organisation can thrive by constantly harassing employees. PIA is a commercial institution, which does not work by gun force.”
The PIA officers association general secretary demanded that the Act be immediately withdrawn and the basic rights of PIA employees be restored.
Published in Dawn, October 29th, 2020