The tussle between the management of the KESC and its employee unions is now well into its second month and, rather than agreeing to compromise, the two sides are becoming more inflexible, ensuring that residents of Karachi face a cruel summer. The KESC management has now declared that it will stop all its operations, which would likely include both electricity generation and repairs and could plunge the city into a permanent blackout. This latest gambit by the management is unlikely to get it any sympathy in the court of public opinion and will serve only to prolong the misery of electricity consumers.
It is worth recalling how the union-management standoff began. The KESC was running massive losses and the management decided it needed to downsize the bloated staff in order to make the company profitable. The unions, naturally, opposed the move. But rather than protest peacefully, they went on strike, refusing to carry out repair work and physically manhandling those who did. This thugishness has made compromise impossible and the management, too, has now decided to act petulantly. The government, both local and federal, has tried to mediate but their motivations need to be questioned. The unions usually have political backing behind them, allowing them to operate with impunity, while there are some politicians who see this mess as a golden opportunity to re-nationalise KESC. Amidst all these vested interests, the plight of Karachi’s residents has been ignored.
All parties involved need to act with some maturity. The unions need to agree to come to the negotiating table in good faith. This means a promise that they will not attack KESC installations. The government needs to be an honest broker and provide, as they had earlier promised, security at KESC buildings. Moreover, the management needs to get the company operating more efficiently. The KESC may be a private, for-profit company but it also exists to provide a vital service to the city. Any agreement that is hashed out must keep the needs of Karachi’s citizens as a priority. That means an uninterrupted supply of electricity during the summer months, no matter how it is achieved.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 15th, 2011.
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