Islamabad - Hundreds of employees of the Utility Stores Corporation, from various parts of the country, gathered here to stage a sit-in at D- chowk against the likely closure of the corporation and non-payments of their promised dues.

Holding banners and chanting slogans, the charged rally started marching from the corporation’s head office in Blue Area towards Parliament house, in the morning. They were denied entry to red zone, near D-chowk, by the heavy contingent of police force, where they began their indefinite sit-in.

The protesters demanded payment of outstanding Rs. 27 billion, against subsidy packages announced by previous governments but payments are yet to be made.

Other demands included the appointment of a new Managing Director for a minimum of three years, hiring all daily wages employees on permanent basis, and making payments of all promised and announced dues was other demands of the marchers.

They also demanded increase in salaries and wages and 50 percent increase in ceiling and house rent as announced in Budget 2018. Revival of utility ghee was another demand of the employees.

The agitators refused to disperse despite assurance from Prime Minister’s close aide who visited them in afternoon.

“Naeem-ul-Haq came to us and announced that on behalf of Prime Minister all our demands have been approved, but we told them we would not leave until the issuance of formal notification,” said Anwar Waqar Chaudhry, Central secretary General of workers union.

He said on Friday the USC delegation had a meeting with Naeem-ul-Haq in Prime Minister House, and he (Haq) promised to fulfill all demands but failed to do so.

“We will continue our sit-in till the government issues a notification, we will not agree on anything less, Union official said.

Union leaders alleged that PTI’s Middle East official Zulfiqar, who is running a departmental store chain abroad, wants to buy the corporation at a throwaway price.

They said Zulfiqar, through a former MD of corporation, who is presently his employee, has been negotiating with the union regarding upcoming privatisation.

The state-owned enterprise operating chain stores all over the country has been suffering a cumulative loss of Rs9.4 billion since 2013. Out of total 5,327 stores 4,470 outlets are in loss.  According to official data, number of regular stores is 4,483, while 518 are franchises.  Out of the total 13,451 employees 3,707 were on daily wages, while 5,853 were regular. 

The organisation is in negative equity of Rs1.808 million and the working capital had shrunk from six billion rupees to Rs1.3 million.

Top management of USC blame obsolete business model, as present 5000 stores are being run on same model which was developed in 1971 for twenty stores. 

Insiders hold deep rooted massive corruption, nepotism and lack of political will as main reasons behind the demise of the large institution. The Ministry of Industries, under which USC falls, continues to remain indifferent to the situation.