Saturday, February 12, 2011

Deadlock resolved

THE stalemate between PIA’s employees and the flag carrier’s management has been resolved, but after incurring very high costs. The four-day strike ended late on Friday with the resignation of Aijaz Haroon, the airline’s managing director, which was a key demand of the strikers. The episode concluded when the federal interior and defence ministers reached an understanding with representatives of the joint action committee of PIA employees, with government assurance that all demands would be met. One of the other key demands was that an alleged route-sharing deal with Turkish Airlines be cancelled. The defence minister said since he never received the purported MoU between the two carriers no action could be taken. The standoff resulted in the cancellation of over 500 flights, countless stranded passengers and mounting economic losses for an airline already in the red. PIA’s spokesperson said the strike resulted in losses of over Rs2bn. The impact the episode has had on the national economy has yet to be calculated. Then there was the massive inconvenience caused to the flying public.
The government — and the PIA management — totally bungled the affair. Violence was seen at Karachi airport on Friday when a peaceful demonstration was broken up by police aided by stick-wielding hoodlums. Violence also marred protests earlier in the week. The unions are also partly responsible for the situation because of their rigidity as well as the fact that a section of employees seemed to have had a more personal axe to grind. Was the protest really about the alleged deal or about the removal of one man? All sides involved must ask themselves what has been gained by four days of chaos, further enfeebling an already infirm carrier. It must also be asked if less destructive methods of protest — and less clumsy ways to handle them — could have been employed.