July 25 - 31, 20

The ongoing tussle between Karachi electric supply company (KESC) workers union and management for over two months is claiming heavy economic losses, causing unbearable sufferings to the citizens and sending a bad message internationally regarding infrastructure facilities in the economic hub of the country.

Although Dr Ishratul Ebad, Governor Sindh has appeared as a troubleshooter after resuming the office and has taken initiative to defuse the tense situation and resolve the issue, yet a sustainable solution has yet to come.

The assurance extended by the governor worked and the union decided to suspend the sit-in they had staged near governor house last week.

Dr. Ishratul Ebad had appealed to the union to suspend its protest till June 25 and he would try to resolve the problems within four days.

Dr. Ebad added that employees would have all the rights to protest if their problems were not resolved till June 25.

It may be recalled that the conflict between workers and the management had stemmed from the decision of the management to lay off around 4000 non-technical staff, which is being opposed by the union and since then they went on strike to press the management to withdraw from its decision.

The situation has taken an ugly turn as the workers had decided to take extreme steps including blocking of supplies of essential equipments. According to KESC, besides blocking supply of important equipments from its stores, the protesting workers also damaged KESC installations, which had badly affected the distribution network of the utility.

The KESC management time and again appealed to the government and law enforcement agencies to protect important and sensitive installations yet no effective intervention was made by the government except the governor of Sindh intervened last week to resolve the issue amicably.

According to KESC, law enforcement agencies (LEA) stand as silent spectators as KESC's people and assets continue to get attacked by union miscreants.

KESC has released the following summary of violations by the protesting workers:

- The fifth attempt to gain access to central store at SITE, which contains critical material (PMTs, Cables, and Joints etc), culminated in a 12 hour long hostage situation while law enforcement assumed the role of spectators.

In view of the above and other incidents, KESC had decided to discontinue its field operations and expose its people to a bunch of hooligans who are free to break the law at any time.

On top of all this, KESC's head office was attacked and brought under siege and the staff members were made hostage. The load operations center was also disconnected late last week.

In response to the workers extreme steps, the KESC had stopped all field operations and decided not to attend distribution faults and send maintenance teams out for any fieldwork in view of the government's failure to provide protection to the utility's employees, get its offices opened and ensure peaceful working environment.

KESC said that numberless times the management had contacted and written to the government and lodged a number of FIRs over the illegal and unlawful attacks and blocking by the union miscreants, but the executive authorities had not arrested a single culprit so far. Even those who were caught red handed and arrested by police along with legally valid evidence had been released later.

According to KESC sources, armed union miscreants attacked the utility's head offices and took about 1000 members of top management and other employees, including females, as hostage. Flashing weapons openly, they blocked all the entrances making it impossible for the management and employees to move.

It is alleged that the law enforcement personnel present in big number outside the head offices took no action to disperse the attackers and silently stood to watch the lawlessness taking place.

The continuous illegal activities of defunct union miscreants had also severely impacted KESC's ability to maintain both its field operations and timely billing and collection. The utility's employees had tirelessly and fearlessly been performing their public service responsibilities in greatly dangerous situation but it was no more possible for KESC to expose its employees to undue risks and leave them at the mercy of a bunch of hooligans who seemed to have a license to break any law any time.

KESC said that the state needed to perform its duties without which the utility could not continue its functioning.

Under the prevailing situation, the worst suffers are the consumers sandwiched between protesting KESC's workers and the management. It is strange that why the situation has been allowed to prevail for such a long time despite knowing the importance of uninterrupted power supply for industrial and commercial activities.

Since the angry union workers are not allowing smooth function of the utility, the consumers are receiving highly inflated average bills as the meter readers are unable to perform their duties due to fear of violence.

The consumers who are already experiencing load shedding of long duration spreading from eight to 10 hours a day are forced to pay inflated bills. The situation is worsening with every passing day as the consumers are at the verge of losing patience and creating law and order problem in different parts of the city every day.

The lawbreakers were also taking advantage under the cover of bad law and order situation due to protest demonstrations on the streets including setting vehicles on fire, holdups and even target killing.

People are attaching hopes with the governor that he will use his good offices to bring back the function of the utility on a smooth track without further loss of time.