LAHORE: Pakistan Railways (PR), the country’s second-largest department in terms of the number of employees and the extensive operation of trains, has been struggling with prolonged delays in disbursing salaries to its workforce and fulfilling pensions and gratuities for retired officials.

The situation is particularly dire concerning gratuity payments, with retirees from 2021 still awaiting their dues, Dawn has learned.

“Despite some improvement, employees continue to experience delays of up to 20 days in receiving their salaries. Furthermore, retired employees from 2021 have yet to receive their gratuities and outstanding dues from the railways,” disclosed Shamas Pervaiz, the former chairman/president of the All Pakistan Train Drivers Association, to Dawn.

“It is true the salaries and other dues are not at all being paid to us on time since long,” Mr Pervaiz, who presently works as chief of the association’s Karachi division chapter, said.

The railway employees are paid salaries in groups/categories on various dates each month. On first of every month, the staff, including all officers posted at the offices of divisional superintendents, railway headquarters etc is paid salary. On 5th of every month, the station masters and their subordinate staff, officials posted at loco sheds, shunting staff etc are paid pays. Likewise, the 10th of each month is fixed for the drivers, guards, conductor guards, and special ticket examiners, drivers etc, while the gangmen, class-4 employees, temporary staff, daily wagers etc are paid wages on 16th of every month.

“In fact, this is the financial mismanagement occurred during tenures of the former ministers for Railways Sheikh Rashid and Azam Sawati onward, However, the caretaker government took up this issue seriously due to which the delay was reduced from one month to 20 days in the payment of salaries. The situation related to clearance of timely pensions also improved,” Mr Pervaiz explained.

“But the issue related to clearance of gratuities to the retired employees is still very serious,” he added. There are various videos uploaded on social media wherein the retired pensioners are complaining about delay in payment of pensions.

“The government must take notice about delay in payment of pensions,” says a retired employee in a video.

Similarly an office bearer of the PR association for the pensioners through an audio message to the PR authorities warned: “We have been left with no option but to go for hunger strike. And if anything happens to any retired elderly employee, the PR authorities concerned would be held responsible,”

A spokesman for the PR said the department, keeping in view its income, clears dues of the retired and in-service employees.

“Regarding pensions, the delay was earlier of 23/24 days that has now been squeezed to 14 days gradually due to various steps taken by the PR management.”

Regarding payment of gratuities, the spokesman said that at the moment those retired in the year 2022 are being cleared. Responding on delay in salaries, he said the delay has now been reduced to maximum 15 days from 25 days or so.

“We are trying our best in this regard,” he said.

Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2024

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