ISLAMABAD: More than Rs11 billion worth of dues of retired Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) employees were approved by the government on Friday.
The Rs11.44-billion amount was expected to be enough to pay 90% of the outstanding dues of the state-run corporation's retired employees.
The approval comes a few days before a Sindh High Court (SHC) deadline to pay the dues to the retired employees was set to expire. Earlier in May, the court had directed the federal government and the PSM to deposit all of the employees' outstanding post-retirement benefits by August 31.
According to the high court, the accounts/funds of the federal government would have been attached for settlement of the dues if the federal government failed to comply with the court order.
The direction came on petitions filed by Syed Umar Baqi and 850 other workers of the PSM who had moved the SHC against the non-payment of their gratuities, leaves encashment and provident funds since May 2013.
The counsel for the retired employees, Haseeb Jamali, had told the court that the gratuity and the provident funds of the retired employees had not been paid by the PSM despite court orders. The PSM had leased its land worth billions of rupees, he said, but the retired employees were yet to be paid their pension benefits and other dues.
The SHC’s division bench, headed by Justice Nadeem Akhtar, took exception to the non-payment of outstanding dues of the retired PSM employees.
In the hearing, the federal law officer had placed on record a statement issued on May 18 along with a report submitted by the finance secretary and cabinet division secretary.
He submitted that the ministry of industries, in order to comply with the court directives, had submitted a summary to the economic coordination committee of the cabinet for the settling the outstanding liabilities of ex-PSM employees who had approached the court and an amount of Rs12.741 billion had been approved for such purpose.
He said 10% of the amount, which was Rs1.30 billion, was to be released in the first week of May 2020 in the current fiscal year of 2019-2020 and the remaining 90% amount of the claim would be allocated in the budget of the next financial year of 2020-21.
The counsel of the PSM confirmed the above position and undertook that the above mentioned 10% amount would be disbursed/paid only for the post-retirement benefits of the retired employees and shall not be utilised for any other purpose.
The finance joint secretary and the cabinet additional secretary had also assured the court that the remaining 90% amount of the approved claim shall be deposited by the federal government before the nazir of the court by August 31.
The court had also directed the PSM to submit within 15 days a complete list of the claims of all retired employees who had not approached the court and had adjourned the hearing of the court till September 3.