Workers urge management to pay monthly salaries until their dues are cleared • Govt red tape causes delay in release of funds to PIA
KARACHI: The cash-strapped Pakistan International Airlines has failed to pay retirement dues of around 2,000 employees who had opted for the Voluntarily Separation Scheme (VSS) that ended on Dec 31 last year, it emerged on Monday.
The affected employees across the country appealed to Prime Minister Imran Khan to intervene to save their families from a serious crisis. They said they would be compelled to launch a protest campaign if their dues were not paid by the end of this week.
While the PIA kept a mum over the situation, a senior official told Dawn that the delay was because of the federal government, which had not transferred the required funds to PIA due to an audit objection raised by the ministries concerned.
“The [PIA] management cannot publicly speak against the bureaucratic red tape, but it is trying hard to get the funding to pay the employees as soon as possible. It has asked the government to conduct a post-audit of funds instead of a pre-audit that would take months to complete.”
The PIA had launched the VSS for its employees on Dec 7, 2020, with a validity of two weeks, but its deadline was extended till Dec 31. It had approved applications of 1,924 of the 2,000 employees, released them with effect from the last day of the previous year and promised them that their dues would be cleared till Jan 31, 2021.
The airline calculated that it needed around Rs9.8 billion to clear the dues and it asked the federal government to release the amount since the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet had in November 2020 approved the VSS to 3,500 employees of PIA, but did not release Rs12.8bn as demanded by the aviation division without knowing the exact number of employees willing to avail the offer.
However, the employees and their families have been facing immense hardship and mental agony due to non-payment of their VSS dues or salary for January.
On Monday, a large number of ex-employees held a meeting here and condemned the “negative attitude” of the PIA management towards them. They demanded that the prime minister play his role in resolving the crisis and the management pay them monthly salaries until their dues were cleared.
They also demanded that medical facilities for their parents and relatives be restored forthwith.
A source said that during the meeting the PIA management contacted a former employee asking him to defuse the situation as their dues would be paid in a couple of days.
In Lahore, the former employees decided to hold a meeting on Tuesday (today) to finalise their strategy to launch a country-wide protest in front of press clubs of major cities.
Some employees said that the Karachi meeting, however, decided to wait before giving a date to launch the protest campaign.
Talking to Dawn, many employees alleged that they did not want to go for VSS but they got no option but to seek early retirement after the management unnecessarily transferred them to Islamabad and other cities.
Scores of ex-employees took to social media to highlight their plight before the government functionaries as well as opposition leaders.
In a tweet addressed to PM Khan, former PIA employee Ghulam Akbar Sohu said: “I opted for VSS scheme in PIA and released on 31 Dec 2020 against commitment of management that all dues will be paid by 31 Jan 2021 but total silence till date pls help us and look at that issue.”
Another ex-employee Jam Kashif tweeted: “Fed Govt approved VSS scheme for PIA employees but approved funds have not been yet provided to PIA due to which PIA employees have come to miserable situation as salaries have also been stopped since 31. 12. 2020.”
PIA spokesman Abdullah Khan did not respond to a Dawn request for official version.
Published in Dawn, February 16th, 2021