Covid-19 taking a heavy toll on Radio Pakistan staffers
Islamabad (TP) June 8, 2020: A large number of employees of Radio Pakistan Islamabad and Lahore stations have been tested positive for the coronavirus after the management summoned all the staffers to office from the 1st of June, allegedly without putting in place robust protective measures at the workplace.
The alleged shoddy protective measures against the coronavirus have recently led to the death of two employees of the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) namely senior broadcast engineer Muhammad Ashfaq, 48, and Urdu newscaster Huma Zafar, 52.
PCB union sources told The Punch that Rizwan Anwar Ghauri (senior broadcast engineer), Bilal Zafar (broadcast technician, Muhammad Hanif Batthi (broadcast technician, Manzoor Hussain (Balti News supervisor), Hamid Mehmood (account officer), Ibrar Nadeem (senior producer), Muhammad Ilyas (motor driver) Basit Jadoon, Zahid and Adil have recently been tested positive for the coronavirus, sending a chill down the spine of other employees, who feared it could be their turn unless the management takes some serious measures to implement the Covid-19 SOPs.
The PBC sources said that the affected employees have regularly been showing up to the office before they were tested positive and they remained in close contact with other employees during the working hours. The sources feared that more employees could fall victim to the virus and tested positive because of their earlier close contact with the infected employees.
The sources said that the PBC management has also put on hold medical bills of several employees for the last several months on the excuse of the budget shortfall and scrutiny, exacerbating their problems further amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
The sources also said that the house hiring of employees of other than the major stations has also been frozen, which the staffers had been receiving for the last 40 years.
The PBC sources claimed that the hiring amount of employees of Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta stations has also been slashed and converted into the house rent and they were getting 65 per cent of the house rent based on the gross salary of 2008.
The PBC sources claimed that on the one hand, the corporation gets full allocations under the heads of medical allowances and hiring of the employees and on the other hand, the management was allegedly putting hurdles in disbursing the amount under the head of medical and hiring.
Sources in the PBC union said that they have already filed a case, in this regard, with the labour court and the verdict was expected in July.
When contacted, Radio Pakistan Director-General Ambreen Jan while talking to The Punch said that she was aware of the cases that have been reported and the management was doing everything possible, within the available resources and according to the government SOPs, to put in place all possible measures to protect the employees from contracting the virus.
She said that since many employees of Radio Pakistan were contractual and they also work in other organizations and they may be the main carriers of the virus.
Ambreen said that the PBC management cannot ask or force them to not to go to their other offices of duty and did not show up for work in Radio Pakistan. However, she said that all measures have been taken at Radio Pakistan Islamabad office including making available sanitizers on every floor and carrying out fumigation to safeguard the employees from getting infected. She said that the employees themselves should also come forward, if they feel even mild symptoms, to ask for leaves to save other staffers from being infected. Those with symptoms of Covid-19 will be allocated leaves, she said.
Answering a question, Ambreen Jan said that since the PBC was facing a huge shortfall of funds and budget, they cannot afford to pay the hiring of such a large number of employees which goes into thousands. The DG said that the auditors had also raised objection to the practice of disbursing the hiring amount, which had been ongoing for the last 40 years. The DG said that the management had to do away with giving hiring to the employees of other stations, then the main five stations, after the auditors raised the objection.
Ambreen Jan said that pending medical bills were being scrutinized and deserving and entitled employees will soon get the reimbursements. The DG said that she was doing everything possible to facilitate the employees and they were like a family.