BHBWWF rally demands restoration of sacked PSM employees

KARACHI:A huge demonstration of women workers organized here Wednesday by Home Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) Pakistan demanded immediate restoration of the 4,500 sacked workers of Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM).

HBWWF held a protest demonstration in front of the Karachi Press Club (KPC) to condemn the illegal step of the government to sack the workers of PSM. The demo was led by HBWWF general secretary Zahra Khan.

Speaking on the occasion, Zehra Khan said that the sitting President and Prime Minister of Pakistan had promised that they would make the PSM a profitable organization, but they instead sacked 4,500 employees of the PSM at the stroke of pen. “This condemnable step is taken when the country is facing a very serious economic crisis and masses have been braving hunger, poverty and joblessness. This is also violation of the law of Sindh government under which no employee could be sacked, or its salary and dues stopped during coronavirus pandemic,” she said.

She said that in recent past the government had sacked 9350 workers without adopting legal procedure and thus violated labor laws. “The ministry of industries made the board of directors a rubber stamp and got decision of sacking of workers from them and then got is approved from cabinet. In this regard no worker was issued any notice. To close down any organization without declaring it bankrupt is illegal, but this act was again repeated by the government.”

Zehra said: “The malifide intention of government could be seen from the fact that to destroy the PSM, an important organization for national industrial development, a board of directors was set up whose not a single member is related to steel industry or is holder of any technical expertise and whose chairman is made a person who is an American citizen and his interests are linked to a particular mafia that wants total destruction of the PMS.”

She said: “The sitting government that lacks public support is selling off precious assets of the nation and country like a defeated army. This regime has already bent knees before steel import mafia and a so-called Steel Mill Consortium has again become active that wants to purchase the PSM for peanuts. It has got patronage of some powerful ministers and advisors of federal cabinet. They include Razaq Dawood of Aisha Steel Mills, while Arif Habib of Hubco and Al-Tuwarqi group also want to occupy the PSM.”

In March 2019, the then chairman of PSM had written a letter that some influential persons of government and bureaucracy are putting hurdles in way of reviving the PSM. However, the advisor to Prime Minister Razaq Dawood immediately sacked that chairman.

Till 2008, the PSM was a profitable organization but it was destroyed through conspiracies. They planned to sell the PSM at the time for just Rs21billion, when the finished products of Rs12billion were present in its stores and Rs11billion cash were present in its back accounts, besides 19000 acres of land, Steel Town spread over 850 acres of land, and an additional land of 650 acres. Even today, slabs and other products and scrape valuing more than Rs16billion present are present in the PSM and these assets are being stolen in broad daylight.

The Supreme Court had taken a suo moto notice of misappropriations in the PSM in 2009 and it is still pending.

Different governments played a negative rule regarding the PSM. It is a fact that the government had starting thinking about privatizing of the PMS and other organization from 1988 after being inspired from the privatization policy of Margret Thatcher. The Musharraf government dealt a deadly blow to the PSM by reducing duty on import of steel from 17 percent to 10 percent. In the government of Nawaz Sharif, supply of gas to the PSM was suspended and thus the PSM was closed down completely.

As per decision of the Supreme Court, it is necessary that this matter must be discussed in the Council of Common Interests before taking a final decision about the fate of this national organization. However, the sitting government is showing a criminal negligence regarding the decisions of the apex courts and its own constitutional responsibilities.

Due to ineptness of government and bureaucracy, no one knows about Rs52billion of provident funds, gratuity and other funds of the present employees of the PSM and Rs21billion collected in these heads from the retired employees. From 2011 the administration was making deductions of these funds from the salaries of employees but these funds were not being collected in proper accounts. The ill-tailored decision of selling PSM and other organizations would render hundreds of thousands of workers and employees jobless and thus create a huge crisis.

The protest participants demanded of the government to restore all sacked workers of PSM. Speakers of the protest were Nasir Mansoor (National Trade Union Federation), Saira Feroz (Home Based Women Workers Federation), Akber Narajo (Progressive workers Union Steel Mill), Liaquat Sahi (Democratic Workers Federation), Aqib Hussain (Workers Youth Committee) and others.