NA body questions downsizing in gas utilities

Published: September 8, 2017


Heads of state-owned gas distribution companies appeared in front of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Energy on Thursday to justify the removal of contractual employees from their payroll after protests by labour unions against the decision attracted attention of the lawmakers.

Committee member Shehryar Khan Afridi raised Sui Southern Gas Company’s (SSGC) removal of contractual employees and transfer of union activists to other cities.

However, the SSGC MD insisted that the workers being removed were third-party workers hired by contractors for a certain period of time on a temporary basis.

He said the management regularly sat with representatives of the elected labour unions to discuss their charter of demands to resolve the issues confronted by the employees. He said the union under discussion was not an elected body, adding SSGC was already overstaffed and needed downsizing to operate profitably.

The committee also discussed the termination of services of contractual sub-engineers. The managing director of Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) argued that these workers were hired on a temporary basis with clear dates of their joining and quitting.

He said a petition filed by the sub-engineers against the termination of their services had been rejected by the Islamabad High Court and the case was with the National Industrial Relations Commission, adding SNGPL would advertise posts in the next 15 days and the terminated engineers could apply for the jobs again.

“Labour unions should remain in their limits and struggle for the welfare of workers without any association with political parties,” commented Committee Chairman Bilal Ahmed during deliberations on the issues faced by SNGPL and SSGC. Afridi argued that under the law any employee who worked for 90 days against any vacant post became eligible for regular appointment.

The committee expressed concern over the termination of services of contractual employees by the gas distribution companies and pointed out that although the matter was pending in the court for adjudication, the authorities concerned should reconsider their cases on humanitarian grounds under the existing legislation and treat them equally to avoid any discrimination.

Earlier, the body considered the “Regulation of Generation, Transmission and Distribution of Electric Power (Amendment) Bill 2017” and “Private Power and Infrastructure Board (Amendment) Bill 2017”.

It directed the Power Division to hold a meeting with all stakeholders to remove lacunas in the proposed legislation, if any, and report back for further consideration.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 8th, 2017.

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