The offer by Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to its employees to avail voluntary separation scheme is a great initiative. Once the federal cabinet approves it, PIA will offer the scheme to its workers. The initiative is the right step since the government wants to reform the PIA. The proposed scheme is a win-win situation for the national flag carrier as well as the workers of the body. The opportunity to leave PIA voluntarily will lessen the friction between the employees and employer that is unavoidable when forced downsizing happens; employees also know that the organisation they work for is a sinking ship. Career prospects could improve if they choose to leave now, before the redundancies begin.

Hopefully, the separation scheme will help in reducing the workforce of national airlines. But it is also true that the process will not be as smooth as it sounds in theory. The government should consider potential hurdles before offering the workers any golden handshake plan. The workers may not be willing to avail the offer because of the negative stories of earlier separation schemes. Also, job security has become more critical in the current economic scenario.

Therefore, the scheme’s success depends on proper planning. The government must revise the time given to employees to file separation applications. Fourteen days are not enough for a worker to find himself an alternative job. Likewise, before providing a separation plan to the staff, the workers’ union representatives must be taken into confidence to ensure the welfare of the workers that will be separated.

While PIA wants to lay off at least 3000 employees through the scheme, it will only work if the severance package is lucrative enough for employees. The government must ensure that the package offered to the PIA staff incentivises enough workers to end their relationship with the national flag carrier to meet the target set for downsizing. It is important to remember that this is only the first step to revive PIA. If the separation plan succeeds, it can offload more staff by assessing redundancies.