KARACHI: A body of protesting employees of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) on Wednesday alleged that two former employees died of heart attack because they were under a lot of stress due to non-payment of their dues under the early retirement Voluntarily Separation Scheme (VSS) and appealed to the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) to take suo motu notice of their “economic murder”.
Around 2,000 PIA employees had availed the VSS facility that ended on Dec 31 last year and the airline management had promised them to clear all their dues by Jan 31. However, they neither got their salary nor the retirement dues. They held protest demonstrations from the platform of PIA VSS Committee in Karachi and Islamabad on Feb 15 and 16 against the delay in payment of their dues.
In Lahore, a large number of former PIA employees and their families, including children, gathered in front of the Lahore Press Club on Wednesday in protest against non-payment of their dues. They were carrying placards and posters inscribed with photographs of the two former employees who died recently.
Two ex-workers die under stress allegedly because of non-payment of VSS dues
They urged the prime minister and the CJP to provide them justice.
In a press release issued on Wednesday, the PIA VSS Committee said former workers Rab Nawaz and Saleem Maseeh died because their medical facility, like all those who availed the facility, had been abolished with effect from Dec 31 last year and they also did not get their retirement dues as well.
They appealed to the CJP to provide relief to the “oppressed employees”.
In Karachi, the VSS Committee held a meeting and informed the protesting employees that they were expecting a meeting with PIA’s top authorities in which they would present their demands.
They said they would organise countrywide protest demonstrations from next week if their demands were not met.
Also on Wednesday, the general secretary of the PIA Senior Staff Association, Safdar Anjum, sent a letter to the airline’s chief executive officer retired Air Marshal Arshad Malik, asking him to take a loan either from the government or commercial banks to clear the dues of the employees who opted for VSS.
He also proposed that in case of a further delay in payment of dues, the PIA management should start disbursing salaries to the VSS employees as per their last drawn pay and restore the medical facility to provide them some relief.
“This amount should be deducted from their dues at the time of clearance,” he said.
On the other hand, officials in the PIA expressed their helplessness over the issue. They said that the PIA through the aviation division had requested the finance ministry to release the funds directly to the airline for its VSS.
They said even a finance ministry letter dated Feb 8 had acknowledged that the amount required by the PIA was a “cash support” for the VSS of its employees and was approved by the Economic Coordination Committee and federal cabinet.
However, it linked the release of funds directly to the PIA “subject to fulfilment of all procedural and codal formalities”, which would take time, they added.
Published in Dawn, February 18th, 2021