ISLAMABAD: The recent retrenchment, sacking and removal of about 9,350 employees of the Pakistan Steel Mills Corporation (Pvt) Ltd landed in the Supreme Court on Tuesday when its workers’ union urged the court to declare the terminations illegal.
The petition, instituted by senior counsel Rasheed A. Razvi on behalf of the Pakistan Steel Peoples Workers’ Union, requested the apex court to strike down these sackings after declaring the same a violation of the fundamental rights of workers.
The apex court was also requested to suspend the directives and notification regarding the retrenchment and removal of 9,350 employees till the time the petition is pending before the court.
The secretary of industries and production, ministries of finance and inter-provincial coordination, the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC), Council of Common Interests (CCI), chief secretary of Sindh and Pakistan Steel Mills Corporation (PSM) have been named as respondents in the petition.
Workers’ union argues that retrenchment plan is against principles laid down in Wattan Party case
The petition also urged the court to declare that the privatisation/retrenchment and evaluation of the mills’ machinery and its land and assets being initiated by the government were without jurisdiction, illegal, mala fide and carried out without following the directives of the Supreme Court as laid down in the Wattan Party case through the Cabinet Committee on Privatisation (CCoP).
The petition requested the court to declare the retrenchment plan and government actions undertaken subsequent to such plan, including issuance of retrenchment letters to 4,544 employees in the first phase, illegal and without jurisdiction and against the fundamental rights of the petitioners.
It also asked the Supreme Court to declare the actions of ECC releasing the retrenchment plan ultra vires and without jurisdiction as this exercise was futile in nature and against the principle laid down in the Wattan Party case.
Through the petition a question of public importance and enforcement of fundamental rights has been raised, particularly Articles 4, 9, 14, 18, 23, 24 and 25 of the Constitution, as well as consideration of principles enshrined in Articles 37 and 38.
The petition argued that a national institution of paramount importance was being privatised by the current management of PSM allegedly in connivance with the current political regime.
An attempt to privatise the PSM was also made in 2006, but that was revoked and aborted in the Wattan Party case judgement.
The petition contended that the PSM was being managed and operated in accordance with the Public Companies (Corporate Governance) Rules, 2013, and Pakistan Steel Officers Service Rules and Regulations.
It asked whether the recent appointments of retired Brig Shuja Hassan as Chief Executive Officer, retired Colonel Tariq Khan as Principal Executive Officer (Administration & Personnel) and retired Captain Baber Bernard Massey as General Manager Security are in accordance with Public Sector Companies (Corporate Governance) Rules, 2013, and Pakistan Steel Officers Service Rules and Regulations.
The petition wondered whether the current management of PSM has rightfully initiated the privatisation process in view of the criteria set in the Wattan Party case through the CCoP and whether the persons not having experience in the industry of metallurgy could have been appointed on key position at the PSM.
It said that the PSM was a vital industry which was integrated and connected with the country’s economy, progress and development and hence its viability and sustainability, operations and production, management, financial and commercial health were all issues which not only affect the lives of thousands of people who were employed in the PSM and their families as well as suppliers, dealers subcontractors, consultants, etc, whose livelihood depends on the proper functioning of the mills, but also directly concern and are of eminent importance to every citizen of Pakistan and the public in general.
The steel mills for any country are its essential assets and hence the PSM being the only steel mill in Pakistan too is a treasure in the country’s economy, the petition argued.
The iron and steel industry is indeed rightly considered to be the economic backbone of any country, and it is a well-known fact that economic growth and national development are not possible without a country’s capacity to produce iron and steel and as such the PSM needs to be protected and sustained, it added.
Total reliance on import of iron and steel for the country like Pakistan involves huge cost which clearly affects its trade deficit, the petition contended, adding that in fact steel consumption was considered one of the indicators of a country’s development.
The PSM is strategically located 40km south-west of Karachi in close vicinity of Port Qasim, spread over an area of 19,013 acres with 10,273 acres for the main plant and downstream industries, 8,071 acres for the township and 271.28 acres for the water reservoir.
Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2021