RAWALPINDI / ISLAMABAD: With the sun setting on the tumultuous year of 2020 on Thursday, the management of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) closed its Voluntary Separation Scheme (VSS) and began tallying the total number of employees availing the facility and generating final settlement and release letters for them.

Spokesman for PIA Abdullah Hafeez Khan said in a press release that the total number of employees availing the facility had touched the figure of 2,000 and about a thousand release letters had already been issued.

He said the VSS was launched on Dec 7 and initially it was supposed to end in two weeks. However, its deadline was first extended till Dec 28 and finally until Dec 31. The spokesman said that reducing the “workforce through an honourable separation scheme on an attractive package” was required for “execution of our business plan”. The PIA management praised the government and other stakeholders for their support in this regard.

He said the response to the scheme was very encouraging, which was why the management was able to reduce “20 per cent of our regular workforce”.

He added that due to the scheme, PIA would save about Rs2.5 billion and the payback period on investment would be only two years.

PPP terms decision to move PIA head office illegal

Mandatory retirement

The retirement of those employees of PIA who fall in the ‘approved category’ under the recently announced Mandatory Retirement Scheme has been approved.

The national flag carrier has been advised to retire 3,500 employees.

Some 2,537 employees have so far applied for the scheme, according to the PIA’s human resource department.

The PIA chief executive officer didn’t give the total number of the laid-off employees, including administration executives, pilots and cabin crew, in the first phase, but circulated criteria, indicating who should be retired, to all the chief officers, general managers, station heads and other relevant persons in the corporation.

The retirement criteria are as follows: All employees who have availed out of turn/irregular promotion ever in the course of their career.

All cabin crew who are overweight as compared to their BMI standard or are performing ground duties for the last two years or involved in crimes/misconduct of moral turpitude.

All pilots who had been judged as redundant and non-productive on the basis of performance or who have compromised on safety at any point in time or failed any other checks (including simulator checks) carried out to measure their flying proficiency for the past five years.

All employees with three above average ACRs in the past five years.

All employees who were employed/promoted on the basis of submission of degrees from dubious institutions and/or not recognised by the Higher Education Commission.

Upon retirement with normal terminal benefits, as per laid down corporation’s regulations/rules in addition to three-month basic pay/allowance/perquisite, the un-availed privilege leaves at the credit of such employees on the date of retirement, will be encashed.

Shifting of PIA head office

The Pakistan Peoples Party has termed the decision to shift the head office of PIA from Karachi to Islamabad illegal.

Talking to reporters on Thursday, PPP parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman pointed out that Section 7(2) of the Pakistan International Airlines Corporation (Conversion) Act, 2016, states: “The Headquarters of the Company and any of its subsidiary companies carrying on air-transport business shall be at Karachi.”

She said the decision to shift the national airline’s head office could not be taken by the prime minister or the PIA chief executive officer since this authority lies with parliament. She recalled that the government had last year assured a committee that no such decision was being taken, but now it had suddenly decided to shift the PIA headquarters to Islamabad.

Ms Rehman said the PIA management had not offered a single valid justification for its decision to shift the airline’s head office from Karachi to Islamabad. “Why the PIA employees were not taken on board? The decision was a political move with an ulterior motive,” she added.

“We are fighting the coronavirus pandemic and people are struggling to make ends meet. Yet the government is going ahead with its plan to cut PIA’s workforce by half. Employees are being forced to take the VSS. Instead of providing relief and job opportunities, the government is taking away people’s livelihoods,” she regretted.

The PPP leader said 180 of the 262 pilots named by the aviation minister for possessing ‘fake’ licences have been cleared so far.

Published in Dawn, January 1st, 2021