Trade Unions & left political parties call for Impartial Investigation into Pakistan International Airline’s Plane Crash Incident and Dismiss Air Marshal law from PIA
We the leaders of trade unions, civil society groups, students’ organizations and left political parties’ including Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign (PTUDC), Awami Workers Party (AWP), Mazdoor Kissan Party (MKP), Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP), Haqooq-e-Khalq Movement (HKM), Young Doctors Association (YDA) Punjab, Railway Labour Union, Lahore Left Front, PTCL Lines Staff Union, All Punjab Paramedics Association, Peoples Labour Bureau, Meter Readers Association WAPDA Hydro Union GEPCO Division, WAPDA Hydro Union IESCO & GEPCO Chapters, Punjab Teachers Union, Agriculture Bank employees Union, Punjab Professors & Lecturers Association (PPLA), Utility Store Corporation, Employees Union, Municipal Management Association, Kissan Rabta Committee, All Pakistan Local Government Association, Rawalpindi Solid Waste Management workers Union, PTDC Employees Union, National Organization of Postal Employees NOPE, Forward Gear Workers Union, Revolutionary Socialist Movement, Mazdoor Mahaz, Mehnat Kash Tehreek, Pakistan Trade Union Federation, National Trade Union Federation, Women Democratic Front, Mazdoor Ikhath, Jafakash Mazdoor Union, Fouji Fertilizer Employees Union – Baging & Loading Contractors CBA, Al Sadaqat Employees Union, Mazdoor Union Fatima Fertilizer, All Contractor Union, Fatima Fertilizer, Pak PWD Union, Sanitary Workers Union Sadiqabad, Inqlabi Rikshaw Union, Painters Union, Ittehad Pladar Union, Bar Clerk Association Sadiqabad, APCA Union, Journalists Union, Press Club Sadiqabad, Minorities Itehad Union, All Pakistan PTCL Pensioners Association, Revolutionary Students Front (RSF), Jammu Kashmir National Students Federation (JKNSF), All Baltistan Movement (ABM), Progressive Students Federation (PrSF), National Students Federation (NSF), Punjab Students Federation, Progressive Students Collective (PSC), Unemployed Youth Movement (BNT) and others express grief over PIA crash, demand impartial investigation instead of placing blame on workers and low-ranking officers.
We stress upon the importance of initial media reports that the incident took place over a technical fault. We point towards how the transmission of the pilot’s final exchange with air traffic control also indicates that he failed to land due to a technical fault. For a long time, Pakistan Airlines’ Pilots Association (PALPA) has been raising its concerns regarding the working conditions of the ground staff and flight crew. The management has been, however, showing consistent negligence towards ensuring adequate safety measures for the PIA staff.
We also express concern about the fact that a large number of PIA staff consists of daily wagers and contractual workers. Not only are these workers deprived of basic rights i.e. basic income, medical facilities, EOBI and other employee benefits, but also no real attention is paid to their training. Similarly, layoffs are also increasing – in the last one year alone, 1,000 workers were fired at the stroke of a pen. For a long time now, terrible exploitation of workers is underway in the name of restructuring and cost-cutting. In fact, like various public service entities, the path for PIA’s privatisation is also being paved through the forced and well-organised bankruptcy of these institutions. As a result, workers are being thrust into chronic unemployment and poverty. We believe workers should be given their due rights.
Again, the blame of the tragic crash is being pinned on engineering workers and pilots while the real culprits in the management and the ministry associated with the airline are enjoying a luxurious life. These workers and low-ranking officers are simply scapegoats. There was a time when the PIA was a profitable institution that assisted in building many top-class international airlines. Now, after it has been brought to the point of doom, the responsible officials are enjoying their perks while all the blame is being shifted on to the working staff of the airline. The reality is that the ruling class has long been making attempts at destroying the PIA through nepotistic appointments of inept officials, no matter which section of the ruling class sits in the Centre. Not only has the ruling class minted quite some money in this manner, but it has also been thus paving the way for the PIA’s privatisation. All those sectors of the institution that were lucrative were sold for peanuts to private entities – not just its core services but its human resources and profitable routes have also been outsourced to private contractors. Unprofessional and incompetent officials, many of whom do not even have the experience of commercial flight operations, have been installed in top management positions. In the past, we have seen protests from PALPA and other workers’ organisations of the PIA for addressing the inadequate safety measures in place at the PIA, but these voices of dissent were effectively silenced through the imposition of the Essential Services Act 1952.
We believe that the current and previous governments are to be held accountable for the tragic plane crash as they led to the bankruptcy of the airline to justify their privatisation attempts. We also express our reservation on the Special Investigation Board (SIB), which again comprises the same people who are responsible for this tragedy. Civil Aviation Authority is responsible for ensuring safe air travel in Pakistan. However, the ineptitude of this department is evident through numbers. According to the International Civil Aviation Organization, Pakistan’s rate of accidents in a million departures is 29.25, which is the highest in the world. Pakistan aviation has had a spotty safety record with several incidents in the past decade, including a fatal crash. But investigation reports of these incidents, including that of the PIA aircraft ATR42-500 (PK-661) incident, never made to the public.
We demand that the International Civil Aviation Organization, International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations, IATA, PALPA and other workers associated with the airline and aviation sector form a high-level commission. To ensure a partial inquiry, we demand that the chairman and CEO of PIA, Air Marshal Arshad Malik, the chairman of Civil Aviation, Hassan Nasir Jami, Civil Aviation Additional DG Air Marshal Ashraf Bhatti and Federal Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan be immediately dismissed and listed in the investigations. Instead of paving the way for privatisation of the PIA, policies to weaken public institutions should be abandoned and all pubic-sector workers should be regularised with permanent employment and provided adequate training. This is the only way to strengthen the public services sector.
We deem all the measures taken by the government inadequate and anti-working class. To ensure the safety of air travel and the protection of lives, we demand:
- International Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) should be conducted by International Civil Aviation experts as per the principles of the International Civil Aviation Organization and IATA, involving representatives of PALPA.
- Representation of PIA trade unions and PALPA officials along with other workers of the PIA should form a Commission of Inquiry to look into the accident. The report should be made public.
- Since the aircraft was leased from GE Capital Aviation Services, they should also be included in the investigation.
- Safety arrangements for pilots should be made in accordance with IATA standards.
- Essential Services Act should be abolished immediately and restrictions on trade unions in the institution should be removed now.
- Representatives of workers must be included in the operational planning and board of directors. Also, only experienced professionals of commercial airlines should be appointed to higher positions in the company.
- In accordance with the civil aviation law, officers of the departments that allowed the illegal constructions near the airport should be fired and cases be registered against them in the public interest.
- All PIA employees should be granted permanent employment and outsourcing efforts of the institution and airports should be stopped immediately.
- The policy to privatise PIA should be done away with and all sectors be nationalized under the democratic control of workers.
- Empower all cabin crew and pilots to identify threats and take concrete action on operational issues.
- Families of passengers and residents who were killed in this accident should be given the promised compensation of Rs One Million whereas an additional compensation as insurance of deceased of Rs 5 million must also be given to them. Moreover, one member of each of the families should be provided employment in the public sector in accordance with their qualifications.
- In addition to the technical investigation into the aircraft’s health before the flight, investigators must also inspect the working conditions of the ground staff and flight crew. It should be investigated who and what all was behind the bankruptcy of the PIA institution, the nepotistic appointments and promotions, and the delay in the provision of the necessary equipment and spare parts.
- Workers who run the airline should form committees at their workplace to keep a check on the quality of the fuel used for aircraft and they should pressure the management to improve the fuel quality standards. The only way to minimize the damage caused to the environment during flights is the democratic control of workers.