ISLAMABAD - Sensing anticipated backlash from the PIA employees over prolonged delay in their salaries’ increase and finalisation of working agreements, Chairman Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and Secretary Defence Lieutenant General (Retd) Asif Yasin Malik has invited all associations and CBAs (collective bargaining agents) of the state-run airline to negotiate with the management on their charter of demands.

The salaries of the PIA personnel were last increased in 2002 due to the ‘personal’ intervention of the then President General (Retd) Pervez Musharraf, according to sources.

Reportedly, the PIA employees and officers’ associations/unions have communicated to the management to take steps for getting their salaries increased or “be ready for consequences, otherwise.”

This is not the first time the personnel of an organisation working under the ambit of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) have stood up for their rights in the recent years. In 2012 and 2011, the officers and employees of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) launched a massive protest campaign across the country against the denial of their salary increase as per the percentage committed by the management. Their demands were finally met after a series of protests continued that caused flight delays and hindered operations at the major airports.

The chairman PIA-invited bodies include CBAs for group 1 to 4, Senior Staff Association for officers above group 5, Society of Aircraft Engineers of Pakistan (SAEP), Aircraft Technologists Association of Pakistan (ATAP), Flight Engineers National Association (FENA) and Pakistan Airline Pilots’ Association (PALPA). The CBA has started negotiating with the management of PIA by presenting its charter of demands and a positive outcome is expected soon, said a statement.

The associations welcomed the chairman’s initiative to call representatives of the unions, saying that it will help formulate a strategy on the long-term basis for the revival of the airline. However, they warned of launching countrywide protests against the chairman PIA in case their demands were not met. “We’ll go for a countrywide campaign to send the chairman packing in case he fails to accommodate our legitimate demands,” said a source in PALPA.

The PALPA and the PIA’s other aircraft and aviation bodies are also expected to present their related demands in the coming days. They also demanded that pension of the retired employees be increased every year in line with the salary increases of the regular employees in accordance with the management’s order number 21/2003. “There should also be an increase in the pension from current 32 percent to 50 percent as per government rules,” the PIA officials demanded.

The PIA sources said that the airline’s management was ‘well aware’ of the employees’ difficulties due to rise in inflation. “Since the employees are backbone of the airline, their demands and salary review is their basic right and the management recognises it since the denial of this right would cost the PIA top baboos their jobs and there would be no mercy for secretary defence/chairman PIA,” they added.

While the PIA had given a pay raise to the employees over 10 years back, the federal government had raised the salaries of its defence personnel thrice during the last five years, the officials informed.

Demanding an immediate increase in the salary, a joint statement from the PIA associations said, “This is the only way to ensure the airline’s progress. Otherwise many new airlines in the region especially from Middle East are hunting for such workforce, offering huge salaries to aviation people as nothing replaces experience in this high tech aviation industry.”

Recently, Asif Yasin Malik had publicly stated that some PIA pilots were sacked for having fake degrees. He also said that the airline was overstaffed with a team of 482 crew members (on an average) assigned duties on every aircraft and more than 600 pilots attached to only 26 operational aircraft of the state-run airline. This did not go well with the PIA employees, who issued a statement last month demanding not to sack the experienced pilots.

“If the management wants PIA back on track, it better address our issues. It’s a two way traffic, you can’t expect the employees to perform while depriving them of their due rights,” the officials believed.