Govt bans union ac­tiv­ity to bar pro­tes­tors

The Pak Banker - - FRONT PAGE - Staff Reporter

In a move to stall an im­pend­ing strike, 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.

"Any per­son found guilty of an of­fence un­der this Act shall be pun­ish­able with im­pris­on­ment for a term which may ex­tend to one year and shall also be li­able to a fine," the leg­is­la­tion reads. The law es­sen­tially re­stricts union ac­tiv­ity in statead­min­is­tered sec­tors, in­clud­ing rail­ways, postal ser­vices, tele­phone and af­fil­i­ated ser­vices, and air­ports and sea­ports.

The avi­a­tion divi­sion had sent a sum­mary to the prime min­is­ter which was ap­proved Mon­day. In­for­ma­tion Min­is­ter Per­vaiz Rashid, talk­ing to re­porters af­ter the en­force­ment of the Act, 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 to­mor­row, 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. Em­ploy­ees of the na­tional car­rier have threat­ened to go on strike from Tues­day, Fe­bru­ary 2, be­cause of what they called the govern­ment's re­fusal to ac­cept their main de­mand of call­ing off the or­gan­i­sa­tion's pri­vati­sa­tion plan.

PML-N Sen­a­tor Mushahid ul­lah Khan an­nounced on Fri­day 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 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 doc- tors for par­tic­i­pat­ing in a strike.

Soon af­ter the PM's de­ci­sion to en­force the Es­sen­tial Ser­vices Act was an­nounced, Chief of Joint Ac­tion Com­mit­tee of PIA's protest­ing em­ploy­ees Capt So­hail Baloch told jour­nal­ists that the body will go ahead with the strike they had an­nounced ear­lier. "We are go­ing to go ahead with our plan. I don't know what the re­stric­tions are... but if there are any re­stric­tions we are ready to face them, even if we are ba­ton-charged," he said. "The govern­ment has till 7am to­mor­row for ne­go­ti­a­tions, af­ter that we will go on strike," he said.

Rep­re­sen ta tives of PIA em­ploy­ees an­nounced on Sun­day they would con­tinue their strike and re­it­er­ated their threat to bring all flight op­er­a­tions to a halt from Tues­day (Feb 2). An­nounc­ing the de­ci­sion at the PIA head of­fice, the chief of Joint Ac­tion Com mit­tee of PIA Em­ploy­ees (JACPIAE), Baloch said the govern­ment had not ac­cepted the work­ers' de­mand of scrap­ping the pri­vati­sa­tion plan. He said that if the govern­ment did not call off the plan by Mon­day all flight op­er­a­tions would be halted from the fol­low­ing day. He claimed that the em­ploy­ees were united on the is­sue and were ready to ren­der sac­ri­fices to pro­tect the na­tional flag car­rier.

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