Municipal workers protesting against delays in salary payment were baton-charged and tear-gassed by the police on Tuesday.
The protesters were trying to march towards the Governor House to demand the payment of their salaries when the police launched a crackdown.
At least four workers of District Municipal Corporation (DMC) South were arrested and many beaten up as anger ran high among the employees for not being paid for past two months.
Around 150 municipality employees, mostly janitors and drivers, rode on dumpers and trucks to Karachi Press Club. They had been threatening for days to stop lifting garbage.
“The [salary] delays are recurring frequently and for longer periods,” said a DMC official. “It is Ramazan and everyone wants to have cash in their pockets. We have families to feed.”
With over 5,000 employees, the DMC South is the largest among the five DMCs in Karachi. It covers the entire area within the jurisdiction of Saddar and Lyari towns.
The officials complain that the government has not released funds even for fuel, stranding 100 garbage trucks and lifters.
Administrator South Muhammad Raeesi laid the blame of salary delay on the Sindh Finance Department. “The finance department is delaying the release of funds. Hopefully, the salaries will be paid by tomorrow,” he said.
More than 32,000 employees on the payroll of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) are also waiting for their salaries. The delay has mainly been caused by an administrative hiccup. Pakistan Peoples Party and Muttahida Qaumi Movement are still negotiating on the city administration’s future structure – something that has left the present KMC setup in doldrums.
The finance department head, Amir Khursheed, claims that everyone except the education department staff have been paid their salaries. “No one can say that the KMC employees have not been paid,” he added.
The city administration requires Rs800 million every month to pay its workers, ranging from sweepers to engineers. The money comes from the Sindh government as a share from general sales tax (GST) revenue to which the KMC is entitled.
The city administration’s revenues are not enough to pay its staff salaries. All the money collected in taxes is spent on routine expenses like fuel, food for animals at zoo and for buying oxygen cylinders for its hospitals.
The KMC requires an order from the chief minister to continue working every few months.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2012.