WHO lauds Pakistani frontline workers as 'real heroes' in polio fight

A Pakistani health worker administers polio vaccine drops to a child during a polio vaccination campaign in Karachi on May 7, 2018. (AFP/File)
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Updated 24 October 2020

WHO lauds Pakistani frontline workers as 'real heroes' in polio fight

  • 270,000 frontline workers participated in the nationwide anti-polio vaccination campaign last month
  • Pakistan and Afghanistan remain the only countries where polio can be found, after Africa was declared polio-free in late August

ISLAMABAD: The World Health Organization (WHO) marked World Polio Day on Saturday by recognizing the hard work of thousands of Pakistani polio workers, as a nationwide immunization drive resumed after a months-long coronavirus hiatus.
According to Pakistan Polio Eradication Program data, 270,000 frontline workers participated in the door-to-door vaccination campaign last month after the government suspended nationwide polio efforts between April and July to focus on COVID-19 response.
"They are our real heroes in this effort, and with the provided support, they have made us proud by vaccinating millions of children during each campaign," WHO Pakistan representative Dr. Palitha Mahipala said, as quoted by local media.
He added that the WHO and its government and non-government partners are "working hard to ensure that Pakistan can be the next country on the journey to a polio-free world."
Polio is a highly infectious disease, which mainly affects children under the age of five and can cause paralysis or death. While there is no cure for polio, vaccination is the most effective means of protection against it.
The next polio eradication campaign will be starting on Monday, in 128 districts of the country, aiming to give polio drops to 31 million children.
Pakistan and Afghanistan remain the only countries where polio can be found, after Africa was declared polio-free in late August. Pakistan has registered 79 polio cases since the start of the year.


Pakistan Steel Mills workers say will challenge mass layoffs in court

Updated 29 November 2020

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.