PIA to ground nearly 150 pilots over ‘dubious’ licenses

This file photo shows for the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) headquarters in Islamabad on April 12, 2016. (REUTERS/File)
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Updated 25 June 2020

PIA to ground nearly 150 pilots over ‘dubious’ licenses

  • Decision follows an initial inquiry into Karachi plane crash on May 22
  • Aviation minister highlighted irregularities at the national carrier before the parliament

KARACHI: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) will ground a third of its 434 pilots on suspicion they hold “dubious” licenses and flying certificates, a company spokesman said on Thursday.
The decision comes as an inquiry into a PIA crash last month, in which 97 people were killed, points to pilots not following procedures, while a government minister said the cockpit voice recorder suggested the pilots were distracted by a conversation about the novel coronavirus.
“We’ve been told that an investigation conducted by the civil aviation authority has found that about 150 of our pilots have dubious licenses,” company spokesman Abdullah H. Khan told Reuters.
All of the pilots under investigation would be grounded, he said. The PIA has a fleet of 31 aircraft that fly domestic and international routes.
Successive governments have tried to overhaul loss-making PIA over the years but with little sign of success.
The airline’s latest accident came late last month when an Airbus A320 on a domestic flight came down short of the runway in the southern city of Karachi, killing all but two of those aboard.
The aviation minister told parliament this week the plane’s pilots and air traffic control officers had not followed procedures and the two pilots had been pre-occupied by a discussion of the coronavirus shortly before the crash.
The investigation into pilots’ qualifications came after a 2018 crash when it was found that the test date on the license of the pilot involved had been a holiday — suggesting it was fake as testing could not have taken place on that day.
Another pilot had been out of the country on the date stamped on his flying certificate, Khan said.


Pakistan Steel Mills workers say will challenge mass layoffs in court

Updated 11 min 33 sec ago

Pakistan Steel Mills workers say will challenge mass layoffs in court

  • PSM management argues the company’s accumulated losses reached Rs212 billion ($1.33 billion) in June
  • The termination of 4,500 contracts is believed to be the biggest layoff from a single entity in Pakistan’s history

KARACHI: Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) employees are going to challenge in court the company’s recent decision to terminate the contracts of thousands of workers, union representatives said on Sunday.

The management of the state-owned company on Friday handed letters of termination to some 4,500 employees, arguing that PSM’s accumulated losses had reached Rs212 billion ($1.33 billion) in June, when the government decided that 9,350 workers would have to be fired for the dysfunctional enterprise to be revived.
“PSM has terminated 4,500 employees in the first phase of government’s plan to lay off 9,350 employees ... The employees have refused to accept this termination they have registered protests and have decided to challenge this decision in court next week,” Mirza Maqsood, President of Voice of Pakistan Steel Officers Association, told Arab News.

Located 40 kilometers from Karachi, Pakistan’s largest industrial complex with a steel production capacity of 1.1 million tons has been dysfunctional for the past few years. Its operations were suspended in 2015.
“Neither the Company has funds to revive the Mills nor are funds available from any other source to revive the Steel Mill. In any case, revival of the mill would require, firstly massive investment and secondly, entail a period of at least two years,” reads a PSM termination letter seen by Arab News.
The layoff was defended by federal Industries and Production Minister Hammad Azhar, who on Saturday said the terminated employees would be given compensation of Rs2.3 million on average.

“Since the closure of the mill, the government has paid around Rs35 billion as salaries and Rs20 billion as arears to the employees,” he said.

The discharge of workers is said to be one of the biggest layoffs of employees from a single government entity in the country’s history. 
 Karamat Ali, executive director at Pakistan Institute of Labor Education & Research (PILER), said the PSM layoff in unprecedented.
“No such number of employees have ever been fired from a single government institution,” he said.
The decision was also opposed by the provincial government of Sindh, which vowed to support the affected employees. 
“This is wrong and injustice. They (the federal government) must adhere to their earlier stance and commitments of turning the state institutions around with the help of their champions. I am with the employees,” Sindh Labor Minister Saeed Ghani told Arab News.
Mumrez Khan, convener of a representative body of employees, pensioners, suppliers, dealers and contractors of PSM, said that no serious efforts have been made by the federal government to revive the mill, claiming that negligence had caused losses even higher than those cited by PSM management.

“The accumulated losses have swelled to $12 billion on the account of closure of plants, revenue to the government and imports of steel products,” he said.