PTCL’s privatisation caused financial losses, unemployment – DailyTimes Report
(DailyTimes Lahore News report Published on Wed, 31/12/2014)
Karachi (Wednesday, December 31, 2014) – The step to offload government’s 26 percent shares in the Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) in 2006 with the aim of ensuring efficiency in the telecom sector has not borne fruit.
It had an adverse impact on the profitability of the company, causing unemployment and slowdown in performance. According to a television talk show aired on Business Plus recently, around 25,000 workers were laid off by the company since United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based telecom giant Etisalat took its control. Etisalat has still not paid the remaining amount of $800 million to the government, while PTCL continues to face a decline in profitability. It also has no effective operational strategy.
Khalil Ahmed, host of Business Plus programme “Aap Aur Karo Baar”, shed light on PTCL’s performance in a panel discussion with former employees of the company. During the discussion, Masood Ahmed Bhatti, former director of PTCL, noted that the government, with its 60 percent shares in PTCL, could influence the operational affairs and policy of the company. PTCL was making a profit of Rs 29 billion before its privatisation in 2005-06. The profit declined to Rs 9 billion after laying off of 25,000 employees.
An ex-official who served the company as director exchange said that although it had no competition yet PTCL should have converted its operations to optical fibre from the obsolete wired system. He also said that Etisalat did not bring foreign investment to the country nor did it promote and groom its staff, rather made massive cuts in jobs without any strategy. PTCL faces no competition from cellular phone sector because it has a wide base of landline subscribers and also owns a cellular phone company. PTCL did not plan effectively to utilise its landline business, and as a matter of fact 70 percent of its connections have become redundant since Etisalat took control.
Now the network is working at 40 percent capacity. On Khalid Ahmed’s question whether jobs were cut due to poor performance of the employees, PTCL Staff Union Central Information Secretary Muhammad Aftab Alam said a majority of the employees were technically sound and hardworking. He said there are no political appointees in PTCL and everyone was competent to serve the company in his/her capacity, although the salaries were not competitive. Referring to the current restructuring of salaries in which a senior executive vice president is drawing Rs 2 million per month as against a general manager’s Rs 0.2 million for the same slot.
The Voluntary Separation Scheme (VSS) introduced thrice in PTCL was forcibly imposed on the employees without any incentive, he said. Pointing out that some staff members were instructed to give a one-month notice to leave their jobs, Alam accused PTCL management of using pressure tactics to get rid of thousand of employees. He added the company intentionally denied training to its employees and retrenched staff members of Grade 1 to 20 on a large scale without any justification. He said many employees were sent on deputation out of the province, which was not allowed under the company rules and had never happened before the privatisation.