Labour union lawyer requested to argue on plea in search of permission to sack over 50laptop Metal Mill employees

KARACHI: A labour court has asked the counsel for a labour union representing employees of the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) to argue on the maintainability of an application filed by the mill management seeking court’s permission to sack more than 50 per cent employees due to a financial crunch.

Last month, the PSM management had moved the application through its acting deputy general manager Riaz Hussain Mangi, asking the court to grant it permission to sack more than half of the mill’s workers.

When the matter came up for hearing, Labour Court-IV Judge Faheem Ahmed asked Advocate Ameeruddin, counsel representing Insaf Labour Union, to argue on the maintainability and facts of the application of the management on the next date and fixed the matter on Jan 20.

The company has huge payables to various businesses and entities, the application says

Under Section 11-A of the Industrial and Commercial Employment (Standing Order) Ordinance 1968, the chief executive of an enterprise can terminate 49pc of workers from service but needs the permission of a labour court to sack 50pc or more than 50pc of the workforce.

In the application, it was submitted that due to heavy losses the production in the mills was stopped in 2015, thus all activities came to a halt.

On June 30, the accumulated loss of the organisation was in excess of Rs212 billion, while the total capital of the mill was Rs17.206bn. The company has huge payables to various businesses and entities, the application said.

The court was informed that while the accounts of the organisation for the previous years had been audited, the accounts for 2019-2020 were yet to be audited, adding that the auditors had expressed serious reservations regarding the status of the organisation in their audit reports.

The management submitted that the PSM was heavily overstaffed and such expenditures had been a major drag on its financial status. It maintained that the PSM was a project of national importance, but due to overstaffing and other related factors it had become totally unviable and impossible to run or operate under the present arrangements ie staffing level, plant conditions, technology and financial constraints.

The court was informed that at present the salary, wage and benefits cost was about Rs20 million, which had been reduced to Rs10m per day through recent retrenchment of the staff.

It was further informed that according to an assessment carried out by a reputed Chinese firm, the PSM required massive renovation, repair and replacement to put it back in operation, adding that the foreign company’s assessment suggests $180m (Rs29bn) compared to the accumulated losses of Rs212bn.

It further mentioned that a huge amount for the revival of only 1.1 million tonnes per annum capacity (ie $580m or Rs84bn) was not within the resources of the mills and that too on top of the losses of Rs212bn.

Therefore, the board of directors deliberated upon the matter in its meeting dated Oct 23 and had decided to retrench unutilised manpower. Consequently, the chief executive passed an order for the retrenchment of about 49pc workers and most of the non-workman employees. Therefore, 4,544 workers were retrenched by mailing them retrenchment letters.

Indictment deferred in TV anchor murder case

A sessions court once again deferred indictment of two suspects in a case pertaining to double murder of TV anchor Mureed Abbas and another individual over alleged shady investments worth billions of rupees.

Police detained and booked Atif Zaman and his brother Adil Zaman for allegedly killing his two business partners — Mureed Abbas and Khizar Hayat — in the Khayaban-i-Bukhari area of Defence on the night of July 9, 2019.

On Saturday, the matter came up before additional district and sessions judge (South) Faraz Ahmed Chandio for indictment of the suspects.

The key detained suspect, Atif Zaman, was produced from prison.

The court was informed that the suspect still failed to engage a defence counsel.

The charges could not be framed due to absence of the second suspect, Adil Zaman, who failed to turn up despite obtaining post-arrest bail from the Sindh High Court.

The judge fixed the matter on Jan 19 for indictment of the suspect and ordered that both the suspects be produced on the next date.

Published in Dawn, January 10th, 2021

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