Power sector employees face 'forced reshuffle'

Employees union chairman stated that lawyers have been consulted with to challenge the reshuffle

Our Correspondent May 27, 2024


Genco Holding Company Limited (GHCL), owned by the federal government, plans to reshuffle its over 5,000-strong workforce from power generation companies to power distribution companies (DISCOs), sparking unrest among employees and their associations.

The first phase of the relocation began in May 2021, when 1,753 surplus workers were moved to DISCOs.

However, the move was challenged in the Sindh High Court (SHC) and is still under judicial review. The latest reshuffle, affecting the remaining employees, was notified on May 21 with a tight deadline of May 23 for staff to select their top three preferences from the 11 DISCOs in Pakistan.

While speaking to The Express Tribune, Pakistan Wapda Employees Pegham Union Chairman, Muhammad Sajjan Panhwar stated, "This was like compelling the staff at gunpoint to decide if they wanted their salaries and jobs to continue or face termination."

He argued that the short deadline was designed to deny employees adequate time for thoughtful decision-making and to exert pressure on the court ahead of a scheduled hearing on May 30.

"Over the last two days, we observed that an overwhelming number of employees submitted the undertaking forms to join DISCOs out of fear that their salaries would be blocked if they didn't comply," Panhwar added.

The affected staff, employed in BPS-1 to BPS-17, are from the Jamshoro Power Company Limited (JPCL), Lakhra Power Generation Company Limited (LPGCL), Central Power Generation Company Limited (CPGCL), and Northern Power Generation Company Limited (NPGCL). They have been directed to select three companies from among five DISCOs in Punjab, two each in Sindh and KPK, and one each in Balochistan and the tribal areas.

Panhwar argued that the plan to turn these generation companies into moribund industries aims to benefit independent power producers by allowing them to sell more expensive electricity.

He claimed that the government-owned Gencos' furnace and gas-powered plants were producing cheaper electricity than their private counterparts, leading to a conspiracy to make these companies dysfunctional.

Meanwhile, the Pegham Union has called for nationwide protests on May 29 against what it describes as a forced reshuffle.

All Pakistan Hydroelectric Workers Union Regional Chairman Noor Ahmed Soomro echoed concerns that the two-day deadline favoured the government.

"The surplus employees, afraid of being made redundant, opted to submit the forms for the switchover," he said, adding that employees from Gencos are being adjusted to lower grades in Discos.

Soomro recalled that in July 2017, around 500 employees of Lakhra Coal Development Company (LCDC) were moved to Hyderabad and Sukkur-based Discos, with most being adjusted to lower pay grades. "But the problem was never just the grades. The skill sets of the manpower working in generation companies differ from those needed in distribution companies," he added.

An anonymous JPCL employee expressed apprehension about the odds of working for a Disco, noting that the short deadline did not allow enough time for unions to mobilise against the notification.

Nevertheless, Panhwar stated that they are consulting with lawyers to challenge the reshuffle.

He has also written to President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, urging them to reconsider the decision and revitalise the Gencos, which can generate over 4,000 megawatts.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 27th, 2024.


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