PTCL workers lock company gates; 18 hurt in clashes
ISLAMABAD - Over a dozen members of the Pakistan Telecom Company Limited (PTCL) employees' union on Tuesday were injured after they locked the gates of the company launching the countrywide protest against discriminatory pay scales.
The protesting employees have demanded regularisation of jobs from daily-wage basis to the company's pre-privatisation pay scales having entitlement to pensions as well. On the other hand, the management has offered an optional Unified Pay Scale that it claimed was the best the company could do to appease the workers in the post-privatisation scenario.
After transfer of the PTCL management to the UAE-based Etisalat, the company's strength has drastically gone down from 65,000 to nearly 40,000 employees across the country. Almost 12,000 of the employees being retrenched were on daily-wage basis, most of them claiming to have completed the period that is a pre-requisite for regularization. The private sector management that owns 26 per cent stake in the outgoing monopoly of basic telephony in Pakistan believes that it was not possible for it to continue with the pre-privatization terms and conditions of employment.
According to the employees' vows, they started their strike by locking the exchanges and the regional headquarters of the company across the country. In the federal capital the employees action committee gathered in form of over 300 people that forcibly locked the PTCL main headquarters in sector G-8/4 despite prior deployment of the Rangers on the spot.
The employees kept the PTCL headquarters building locked until Tuesday afternoon when the staff stranded inside was to call it a day. The Rangers on the request of the management tried to push the mob away from the gates to open them. The Rangers in collaboration with the police dealt with the workers who resisted leaving the gates. Eventually, they resorted to baton charge, tear gas and use of force to vacate the gates of the headquarters which left almost one and a half dozen of workers injured who were shifted to nearby PIMS hospital.
The employees responded to the baton charge with throwing stones at the law enforcers including the Rangers and the police. According to the eyewitness account a Rangers' man was injured but the official sources did not confirm it.
According to the employees action committee they would continue their strike by locking the installations and offices of the company across the country until July 20, or unless their demands were not met. On July 21 they vowed to observe Black Day against the discriminatory treatment by the management of the company and apathetic attitude of the government, which is still the majority stakeholder in the company listed both on domestic and international bourses. The workers have also vowed to jam the telecom network of the PTCL on the same day in case their demands are not fulfilled. They have also demanded the registration of an FIR against the Rangers who carried out baton charge against the employees.
By the time of filing this report Ali Qadir Gailani EVP of the PTCL told The Nation that the District Administration, the Company management and the employees representatives were continuing negotiations to resolve the issue.