While there is ambiguity regarding the government’s plan to divide the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) into regulatory and airport services divisions, the regulator has started an exercise that is thought to be an attempt to downsize.
The PTI-led government had stated that they had removed the profit churning CAA from its privatization agenda; panic over approaching downsizing had gripped its employees after the CAA created a body for “rationalization of manpower”.
According to information made available to the media, on 6th September, high-ranking CAA officials were briefed, that a “sub-committee has been constituted for Rationalisation of Manpower” and it was “deliberating on rationalization of manpower for all the directorates” at the CAA headquarters “including their respective manpower deployed at locations and headquarters”.
Sources said that the subcommittee was directed to identify “surplus” staff in the authority as a first phase towards downsizing in the name of rightsizing.
The division of the CAA was approved by the PM himself under the plan shown to him by Shahrukh Nusrat, Aviation Secretary and CAA Director General. The minutes of the meeting said, the prime minister “approved rationalization of manpower in accordance with the separation of the regulatory function of the CAA”, on 15th July. Although, a few days later Ghulam Sarwar Khan said that there was no plan of downsizing or rightsizing in the CAA after its bifurcation.
The bifurcation plan is being done to meet the requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) but according to rumors, all this is being done to set up an airport services company under the planned airport services division to enable powerful people who are connected to the ruling party and other places.
The sources added that this plan was being carried out secretly while the real stakeholders such as the officers and employees association were being kept in the dark and majority of the CAA employees were fearful about their future.
A senior official said it seemed that the CAA’s profits were being targeted by the government to match its financial targets and hoped to slash costs in the name of rationalization of manpower from the airport services function. “Initially, the government will slash the fringe benefits of employees and in case of failure to make further cuts it will sell out main units of the airport services like seven major airports of Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Quetta, Peshawar, Faisalabad and Multan,” the official said.