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PTCL set to lay off 30,000 employees

ISLAMABAD: The 65,000-strong Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) is set to slash almost half of its employees as the Etisalat management is finalising the Voluntary Separation Scheme (VSS) commonly known as Golden Handshake Scheme (GHS).

The News learnt that the VSS, targeting 30,000 employees and costing the government billion of rupees, would be launched after the mid-January meeting of its board of directors. It is learnt that the VSS would be open to all the employees in the lower cadres while the general managers or chief engineers would have the final word on the applications of officers and other senior position-holders. PTCL is employing some 5,000 professionals in the officer cadres.

“Except for a few outstanding procedural issues, the scheme has been finalised ahead of the board of directors’ approval which is only a formality in the case of PTCL,” said a top official in the company requesting anonymity.

Contrary to the original privatisation mechanism, the government, in revised privatisation deal with Etisalat in March, agreed to pay half the cost of golden handshake offered to surplus employees who had been promised lucrative packages after prolonged protests by them.

Each PTCL employee opting for golden handshake or Voluntary Separation Scheme would cost the government millions while half the amount is paid by the new management instead of the whole.

The government is liable to bear a total liability of the GHS or VSS worth Rs15 billion, say facts from closely guarded PTCL privatisation documents published by The News on September 2, 2006.

SEVP (Operations) Mashkoor Hussain did not respond to The News queries stating, “It is not my subject and I am not authorised to speak to the media now.”

However, EVP Ali Qadir Gillani was forthcoming in replying to queries. “A VSS plan is being worked out which would be announced after the approval from the BoD and the IT&T ministry,” he said. Ali also confirmed that the next board meeting is scheduled for mid-January.

The PTCL plans of launching VSS would strain the government resources as the Etisalat management believes the company is overstaffed and inefficient. In October 2006, an indirect re-trenching was witnessed in the PTCL when the company did not extend the contract of its subsidiary, Telecom Foundation (TF), which resultantly laid off over 1,900 daily wages’ employees working on the project.

The Telecom Foundation employees, who lost their jobs due to non-renewal of the contract included mostly skilled workers such as fibre optic technicians, splicers, jointer and line technicians besides some unskilled labourers. The News spoke to half a dozen former TF employees and they remain primarily jobless.

Those likely to be affected by the VSS would be semi-professionals and non-professional of the company. Competent and highly skilled employees availing VSS may get jobs in the private sector but prospects are slim for the less-skilled and unskilled workers. The PTCL is still the backbone of the telecom industry.

“At the same time, the local market is already saturated with the middle- and low-cadre employees and the companies are running with full strength,” said a senior official of WLL company in Islamabad.

He said, “Due to the persistent monopolistic policies of the PTCL management, either the WLL and LDI companies are shutting down their business or are opting for acquisitions and mergers which is not a good omen for any market.”

(By Naveed Ahmed, The News-1, 01/01/2007)

25 milk sellers sent to jail

KARACHI: Initiating action against milk-sellers, officials of the CDGK‘s revenue department, having magisterial powers, on Thursday sent 14 wholesalers and 11 retailers to jail for a week on account of overcharging. Matanat Ali Khan, Additional EDO (Revenue) of the CDGK, said that some 25 milk-sellers were found selling milk at rates other than officially notified prices of Rs 26.5 per litre in wholesale and Rs 28 per litre in retail. So the authorities put them behind bars for a week. He added that some 76 milk sellers were also penalised with an overall fine of Rs 1,05,100 for overcharging while several of them were issued warnings. Khan said action against overcharging would continue and in the coming days, more profiteers would have to face jail terms and heavy fines. The milk wholesalers and retailers have increased prices of milk and yogurt from Rs 28 per litre to Rs 34 per litre and Rs 40 per kg to Rs 48 per kg, respectively.

(The News-3, 05/01/2007)

Retailers continue selling milk at higher rates

KARACHI, Jan 6: Milk-sellers continued to overcharge their customers on Saturday despite a commitment a day earlier with the city government that they would sell milk on the official prices till the release of a report by the committee constituted by the city government to evaluate their demands and determine new prices.

Representatives of the dairy farmers and retailers had agreed on Friday during a meeting with the city nazim to sell milk on officials price of Rs28 per liter for 10 days during which the committee constituted at the meeting would assess the reasons of the milk-sellers for seeking price increases.

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