Palpa puts forward three demands, while management wants unconditional negotiations
The prime minister has decided to step in to help resolve a grueling row between the pilots and management of the Pakistan International Airlines which has badly affected the flight operations of the national flag carrier.
Nawaz Sharif’s decision came hours after the PIA management said that it would not accept any ‘illegitimate’ demands of the Pakistan Airline Pilot Association (Palpa), asking the pilots to pursue negotiations without any preconditions.
Palpa pilots have been on a go-slow policy for the last five days which has resulted in cancellation of around 58 flights and re-routing of dozens of other flights, affecting thousands of passengers of the national flag carrier. Some pilots report sickness at the eleventh hour and unfit to fly an aircraft.
Sensing gravity of the situation Premier Nawaz decided on Monday to intervene to break the stalemate between Palpa representatives and PIA management.
Earlier in the day a spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) told journalists that Palpa has set certain preconditions in their Sunday’s negotiations with the management which are not acceptable.
“Palpa President Capt Amir Hashmi was called to the Aviation Division Monday afternoon where he was informed by Aviation Division’s Senior Joint Secretary Capt Ahmed Latif that demands put forward by Palpa in Sunday’s meeting tantamount to challenging the writ of the PIA management, hence not acceptable,” the spokesman said.
Spelling out the core demands of Palpa, he said the pilots’ body calls for a.) immediate replacement of the director flights operations; b.) immediate withdrawal of all show cause notices, inquiries/investigations and legal notices issued to pilots on disciplinary grounds and reinstatement of all grounded pilots; c.) fixation of seniority of pilots as per the wishes of Palpa.
Conversely, Palpa says it wants implementation of a working agreement it had signed with the management.
According to the CAA spokesman, Capt Latif told the Palpa president that the pilots should resume normal flight operations without any preconditions. “The PIA management is willing to sit across the table with Palpa representatives to listen to their legitimate demands,” he said.
The management suggested that a team comprising four senior pilots of PIA and as many representatives of Palpa, and two observers from the PIA management could be formed to settle all the issues within 24 to 48 hours. “Unfortunately, the Palpa president refused to budge and insisted that Palpa’s three demands must be met forthwith,” the CAA spokesman said.
He alleged that the inflexible attitude of the protesting pilots was causing inconvenience to passengers and inflicting unnecessary financial and other losses to the national flag carrier. He said the PIA management would take all possible measures to facilitate smooth operations of all PIA flights, especially the Hajj flights. “All available options will be exercised to cater to any possible shortage of pilots.”
The spokesperson, however, did not say what options the management has to ameliorate the sufferings of passengers who have to wait for hours at airports to board their flights. Passengers of a PIA flight from Karachi to New Delhi scheduled to take off at 9:30 in the morning had to wait for 12 hours at the airport.
Among the passengers were patients of liver transplant. The PIA spokesman said the long delay was due to a senior pilot’s refusal to fly the aircraft and the management arranged alternative staff.
Meanwhile, a Palpa delegation, led by the body’s president, approached PPP senior leader Syed Khursheed Shah and sought his help in the row with the management. The Palpa president said their protest was against mismanagement of the management and its apathetic attitude.
He asked Khursheed Shah, who is also leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, to press the government to include an impartial elected member of parliament in the negotiating committee for a fair analysis of both sides’ viewpoints.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 6th, 2015.