“Firing 20,000 Railway Employees”: Railway Workers Protests in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Karachi, Multan and other cities & Warn of Halting all Trains:
LAHORE: The Railway Workers’ Union (Open Line) and Railway Workers Union (Workshops) on Friday held a demonstration against the proposal of firing 20,000 railway employees.
Central leaders of the unions, including Fazal Wahid, Ashiq Chaudhry, Rao Naseem, Manzoor Razi, Akbar Ali, Anwar Gujjar and Shaukat Chaudhry, led the protest held here at the railway workshops. The protesters were holding banners and placards inscribed with slogans against the anti-worker attitude and statements of the railway high-ups. They chanted slogans against General Manager Operations Ashfaq Khatak for saying that 20,000 employees would be sacked.
The railway workers leaders said that if the administration tried to implement any such decision, the fired employees would not remain silent and they would break all hell loose on the PR to force the seizure of the railway operations. They said the debt faced by the PR had got nothing to do with its employee count but was actually an outcome of the extremely corrupt management and administrative officials who were appointed for hundreds of thousands in Pakistan Railways Advisory and Consultancy (PRACS).
The protestors said the remedy for the PR problems was not sacking scores of people from the lower ranks but uprooting the network of corruption at the higher level which was causing irreparable damage. They warned the PR against sacking workers at such massive scale, saying that it would meet strong opposition and the employees would go to any extent to save the railway.
On the other hand, addressing a press conference here at Pakistan Railway Employees Prem Union office, its Senior Vice-President Sheikh Muhammad Anwar warned the PR authorities that the workers would suspend every operation and halt all the trains across the country if the government tried to sack 20,000 workers and curtail further 39 so-called uneconomical passenger trains. He condemned PR decision of raising 25 percent rail fair, saying that people with vested interests were conspiring against the PR workers and paving the way for its privatisation.
Flanked by union leaders, including Saghir Ahmed Cheema, Khalid Mehmood Ch, Qazi Abdul Wadood, Iftikhar Ali Khan, Mehmoodul Ahad, Qazi Abdul Wadood, Mian Amjad Nadeem, Abdul Jabbar, Muhammad Tufail, Mansoor Safri and Malik Jamil, Sheikh Anwar said the PR General Manager Ashfaq Khattak was hatching the conspiracy against workers as he wanted to curtail trains up to 50 percent and then start downsizing of workers taking plea that extra staffing was a burden on the department so their number should also be cut by 50 percent.
He said the conspiracy would not work as the PR labourers would not let the ministry do so. He asked that by curtailing the passenger trains whether the PR deficit would come down or it would increase.
Anwar said it was the need of the hour to stop corruption in the PR, adding that if the government wanted to decrease the deficit, it should taken stern action against corrupt bureaucrats who were plundering the invaluable assets of the PR.
Talking about the Shalimar Express, he said the recently suspended express was running with 16 coaches carrying over 1,400 passengers from Lahore to Karachi giving profit in million of rupees to the PR on a daily basis.
He said the railway administration had also closed down other profitable trains like Taizrao Express and Shah Rukn-e-Alam Express, which were running between Karachi-Rawalpindi and Karachi-Multan routes respectively.
He said instead of increasing numbers of trains and making them profit-oriented, the corrupt bureaucrats were hatching conspiracies to reduce the number of trains to hide their own corruption.
He said that after the closure of some trains, no bogies were added to the existing passenger trains as currently the trains were running with only eight to 10 bogies whereas a passenger train should have at least 18 to 20 bogies.
The union leader said that after the floods, road infrastructure had been badly affected and needed billions of rupees to repair it while PR needed only less amount to stand on its feet.