Power struggle: Siege at KESC ends after minister intervenes

Irked power utility suspends all field operations in Karachi; Rangers deployed at KESC installations.

Express July 20, 2011


It required the personal intervention of Sindh Home Minister Manzoor Wassan to lift the blockade of the Karachi Electric Supply Company’s (KESC) headquarters, which sacked labour union members had surrounded early in the day and prevented employees from leaving the end of the work day.

Wassan arrived at around 11 pm and was able to persuade the labour union to end their siege after promising them a meeting at the Governor’s House to discuss their grievances with the KESC management. While he was at the site, Wassan did not speak to any management personnel.

Initially, no one from the company came out of the office, fearing the union members who were armed with sticks. The 30 female employees were too scared to leave, so a union leader sent two policemen in saying that they should rest assured that no harm would come to them.

Labour union leaders insist they never took anybody hostage and that the women had always been free to leave. Yet the employees who were trapped inside say they were afraid to come out after the building was surrounded by men armed with sticks who told them that they would not be allowed to leave at the end of the day.

Soon after the labour union began its intimidation tactics, the KESC management announced that they would suspend all field operations until the government could guarantee the safety of its employees. The company claims that its employees have been harassed and prevented from doing their work “countless times” by the members of the labour union.

The company also said that union members had prevented its employees from accessing materials in its central stores in order to continue their repair work on the city’s power infrastructure.

Wassan’s actions follow an order he received from Sindh Governor Ishratul Ebad, who asked the home minister to protect the company’s employees.

“The power company demands security, which should be given to them without any delay,” said the governor.

When Wassan arrived at the scene, he was asked by the police not to go meet the labour union members but the home minister said that he had nothing to fear from them since they were his ‘own people’.

Around three police vans had arrived at the scene but there were around 200 policemen with 100 Rangers personnel. They stretched from the KESC office to the opening of the residential area behind it. The police were milling around but there was no violence. There were expectations of arrests for which prison vans (that can take up to 70 people) had been arranged.

After Manzoor Wassan left, Akhlaque Ahmed of the labour union made a speech to tell people about Wassan’s promises and what would be discussed at the meeting on Thursday.

“I will not only bring up the reinstatement of jobs but also an increase in their wages,” he told the crowd.

The dispute between the KESC and its labour union stems from a decision by the company to downsize its bloated workforce, a legacy of its days as a government-owned entity.

The KESC management has repeatedly offered severance packages to its employees, which were significantly higher than what it is legally mandated to give out.

Yet union members remain recalcitrant, insisting they
be retained at full salary and benefits despite the fact that the company has no need for them.

According to KESC customer service officials, the duration of each bout of power outage will be of three hours, instead of one.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2011.


MAD | 11 years ago | Reply 20 hours without power and counting. Right now the only thing I want is the heads of all the union members who have caused this chaos. And if you're one of them that includes you too.
perviaz memon | 11 years ago | Reply

@Hostaged: I read some where that " Give bed name to dog and hang it" well done sir u give a verdict to hang these so called corrupt and inefficient workers . After this only clean and efficient persons will left in KESC .After this we will receive 24 hr electricity and every where river of honey and milk will flow . There is only one solution restore these workers and take KESC in government custody like other parts of pakistan

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