RAWALPINDI: The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) management on Thursday distanced itself from the officers association (SASA) amid a “symbolic pen-down strike” announced by employees for an increase in salaries and against the restructuring of the national airlines.

SASA, however, rejected the statement issued by the PIA management, saying the tactics of the management would not deter the association from its protest.

A PIA spokesman said the protest call was “highly unnecessary, inappropriate and against the national interest at this time”. He said that the PIA was facing serious financial problems and added that resolving difficulties in bank loans, aircraft and engine leases, and engineering payments was the company’s top priority.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency’s audit coming soon, he said, adding that three years of hard work was about to reach its logical conclusion, which would hopefully “revive the UK’s closed sector”. The spokesman said that any disruption in this effort will not only set the PIA a long way back but also expose it to serious financial difficulties.

Workers seek increase in pay, oppose restructuring of national airlines

“The need of the hour is that everyone unites to save the institution from sinking and contribute to its improvement and development,” the spokesperson added. “Demanding a 35% hike in salaries and stopping the possible restructuring of the PIA on this basis is tantamount to losing sight of reality,” he said.

A 10 per cent increase was made in March this year and a further increase was not possible at this time due to fiscal difficulties, he said, adding that the salaries could be revised as soon as the situation improves.

In case of restructuring, no employee will be made redundant, he assured. “It is better to reform the institution than to close it down,” according to the spokesman.

“The most affected by the closure of the institution will be self-service and retired employees who will lose their salaries, pension, travel and medical facilities,” he said, adding that the management was ready to sit down with all stakeholders to take them into confidence.

Desertion from the workplace is an offence and punishable under the Compulsory Service Act in force in the PIA, warned the spokesman.

SASA rejected statement

Meanwhile, SASA rejected the statement issued by the PIA management in which the PIA management expressed indifference to the PIA Officers Association which has the “full confidence of PIA officers”. A press release issued by this letter of the PIA administration is a manifestation of its biased thinking. “The cruel decisions that the PIA management is going to take against PIA and its employees are the biggest obstacle in its life,” it added.

“The adverse actions of the incompetent and biased management of the PIA cannot deter SASA from its efforts to save PIA and increase the salaries of its employees,” said spokesperson SASA Rahat Ilya Khan.

A press release issued by People’s Unity of PIA (CBA) said that a two-hour “symbolic pen-down strike” was observed in all booking offices of the PIA across the country to stop the process of privatisation. In this regard, the PIA booking office in Rawalpindi was completely closed from 3pm to 5pm.

President of People’s Unity Ramzan Laghari said the peaceful protest will continue till the increase in salaries. “If they are not approved soon, they will announce a complete strike and completely stop the operation of the PIA, for which all the responsibility will be on the PIA administration.”

General Secretary Sohail Mukhtar said the salary of the employees of all the institutions across the country was increased. “The PIA employees are suffering from severe financial problems…salaries are extremely low and the management itself is receiving millions of salaries,” he claimed, demanding an end to this unfair treatment.

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2023

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