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Thursday, February 15, 2024

Humbled by our employees

This is the most difficult time for both the employer and the employee. Most industries are laying people off. But there some which are making wise decisions.

The most unprecedented unfavourable business environment ever encountered because of the coronavirus crisis has hit the economy very hard.

The economic meltdown thereof has made mandatory layoffs as the only option because many of our good clients have had to reduce their guards on their contract. Only a handful of embassies have graciously volunteered to reduce “posts” and send our employees on “administrative leave” ie they will be paid for despite the fact that they will be at home, but the condition is that they would be available without notice. The other clients have had to cut back for no fault of them – to that extent at the beginning of March we had to plan for the worst.

It was estimated that unless we acted soon we would have had to lay-off between 1200 and 1500 personnel out of our several thousand employees. When I communicated this to my son Zarrar who is presently in the eye of the coronavirus storm in New York with his family, his short comment was “no way”!

Read more: Post Covid-19: Will Capitalism Survive?

Working on various solutions we decided to request over direct employees (by “direct” we mean those paid for us any contract”) to forego two years increment. Volunteer Cuts by Managerial Staff in their salaries. That this was agreed to by all the employees was a tremendous watershed landmark in the Group’s history.

Their contention was almost unanimous, “we will take a pay cut but will not have let our colleagues kitchen stove go cold”. It certainly added to the personal financial burden of all personnel including the lessening of food on the table for their families and a reduced lifestyle, however this sacrifice on their part reduced the pressure on our cash flow.

One is grateful to God that all efforts to nurture and groom the Group over the period of over 40 years or so has now paid off by the loyalty and steadfastness of entire personnel, they have responded with unity and faith in the face of the present crises.

If you can patiently explain the logic of the circumstances and the extraordinary means required to overcome such adversity

Most of our female staff reported for duty inspite of conveyance problems in the lockdown situation in various cities by bullying their way through checkpoints by showing their security ID cards. One is proud to be associated with such a host of good people ready to make personal sacrifices for the larger good. The strong moral fiber of our manpower in their positive reaction further glued us together as a family which is conscious of its liabilities and responsibilities as a whole.

If one believes in God’s benevolence and his mercies HE will never forsake you. Out of the blue we got some contracts in other sectors which allowed the Group to cover the shortfall in our cash flow ie they “pay cut” was only for the month of March for the salaries paid in April. In good faith we have decided to reciprocate the loyalty and goodwill of our employees by reversing the pay cut (one month only) with immediate effect. However they were very symbolic!

Read more: Corona fight: It’s about time bureaucracy showed its performance

The private security industry is among the corporate entities “least affected” due to the crisis, everyone will still need guards even though their quantity will be reduced. Among the “least affected” we are fortunately the least affected because of the quality of our guards.

What we have achieved, albeit one cannot predict the future in a complete breakdown of the economy (which can happen), may not be possible in other businesses and industries.

Our model cannot apply everywhere and very area of activity will be different. To give one example how will restaurants and normal commercial shops pay their employees if they have no sales because people will not have purchasing power? How can majority of the many industries now at a standstill pay their employees?

Read more: Pakistan’s economic survival is based on agriculture: Fix it before we lose the opportunity!

The important thing is that you have to take your employees into confidence. If you can patiently explain the logic of the circumstances and the extraordinary means required to overcome such adversity, I believe they will be willing to give sacrifices for their colleagues.

One is not only morally obliged to all employees but humbled that in the present adverse circumstances they rose up to the challenge with a really remarkable sense of sacrifice (the writer is a Chairman Pathfinder Group which includes two of the country’s largest private security companies, SMS (Pvt) Ltd and Wackenhut Pakistan (Pvt) Ltd)).

Ikram Sehgal, author of “Escape from Oblivion”, is a Pakistani defense analyst and security expert. He is a regular contributor of articles in newspapers that include: The News and the Urdu daily Jang. The article was first published in Daily Times and has been republished with the author’s permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.