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PIA flying, despite call for strike

02 February, 2016

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ISLAMABAD: Despite a strike call by Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) employees, flight operations are continuing "as scheduled", Civil Aviation officials said Tuesday.

The Joint Action Committee (JAC) of PIA employees reiterated their resolve to go on strike starting 7am but flight data at Karachi's Jinnah International Airport (JIA), Islamabad's Benazir Bhutto International Airport (BBIA) and Lahore's Allama Iqbal International Airport (AIIA) shows all PIA flights from 7am-9am have departed, and that only two flights ─ PK-313 (Lahore to Karachi) and PK-314 (Karachi to Lahore) ─ were cancelled. A total of 10 PIA flights departed on time from all three airports between 7am-9am.

Pakistan Airlines Cabin Crew Association President and JAC spokesman Nasrullah Khan told that the government had not accepted the body's four-point agenda.

The strike started at 7am, he said, adding that PIA employees would take out a rally at Karachi's Jinnah terminal around 10am this morning.

Flight operations at Karachi's Jinnah International Airport (JIA), Islamabad's Benazir Bhutto International Airport (BBIA) and Lahore's Allama Iqbal International Airport (AIIA) are running and are expected to continue as scheduled, Civil Aviation officials said.

"All the flights this morning left on time," a JIA official said.

An official at BBIA said flight operations were continuing as scheduled and would not be affected even later in the day. Television footage showed a heavy contingent of police deployed at BBIA for added security.

An official at AlIA said check-in was open for flights and "all flights so far had run on time".

Employees of the national carrier earlier threatened to go on strike from February 2 (today) due to what they called the government’s refusal to accept their demand of calling off the organisation’s "privatisation plan".

Captain Sohail Baloch, convener of the PIA employees committee, had earlier told reporters that a four-point agenda had been presented to the government by the body. Failure on part of the government to fulfill these demands, he said, would result in suspension of flight operations.

Their demands are:

Government should immediately take back the bill passed on January 21 converting the national flag carrier into a public limited company.
PIA's employees be provided a chance to reform the airline. If the employees fail to do so, the government will have the freedom to do whatever it finds suitable.
Privatisation, in any form, whether it is in form of a strategic partner or selling of 36 per cent or 1pc of the organisation's shares, is not acceptable to the employees.
Government should immediately review the aviation policy and form a committee for this purpose comprising members from PIA employees' JAC along with PIA experts Khursheed Anwar, Kamran Hasan and Salahuddin.
Related: PIA privatisation postponed for six months

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday enforced the Essential Services (Maintenance) Act 1952 for six months, barring protesting members of the Pakistan International Airlines from participating in any union activity.

The law essentially restricts union activity in state-administered sectors, including railways, postal services, telephone and affiliated services, and airports and seaports.

Earlier on Friday, PML-N Senator Mushahid­ullah Khan had announced that the government had postponed the privatisation of the national flag carrier for six months and requested the protesting workers to end their strike.

Mushahidullah had asked the joint action committee of PIA employees to withdraw its decision of the strike and resume flight operations, otherwise the government would use its authority and impose the Essential Services Act, if PIA employees did not call off their strike.

The Act was also invoked by the government in January 2013 during the doctors' strike for better wages and regularisation, resulting in the sacking of young doctors for participating in a strike.

Speaking to reporters after the enforcement of the Act, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid made clear that strict action will be taken against protesting employees.

“Let me make clear that those who continue the strike will be treated as enemies of PIA and Pakistan and they will end up losing their jobs.”

Responding to a question, Rashid said flight operations will not be halted from Tuesday, adding that the government had made alternate arrangements of pilots and engineering staff to ensure that operations continue smoothly.

Rashid said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had made clear that no PIA employee will be laid off during privatisation, reiterating that the government will not tolerate strikes.

It must be recalled that during a pilots' strike last year PIA Chairman Nasser Jaffer had formulated a ‘plan B’ to run the flight operations without interruption under which new pilots were to be inducted on contract basis while Pakistan Navy’s aviators were to be called in for assistance.

The National Assembly on January 21 witnessed the passage of six bills, including one to convert the national flag carrier into a public limited company.

Under the bill, Pakistan International Airlines Corporation (PIAC) is to be converted into a public limited company as Pakistan International Airlines Company Limited (PIACL).

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