KARACHI: As the Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) management, government committees and labour unions continued negotiating, thousands of residents across the city had to wait out hour-long power outages.
Small faults were left unattended and areas in PECHS, SMCHS and DHA, among others, were badly affected by the delay in repairs.
The KESC management blamed its sacked workers for the outages and the protests while the union leaders flung the allegations back at them, saying some of the fired employees were actually repairing the faults in their areas.
“Protesters have hijacked 800 maintenance trucks with ladders (MTLs), which has disrupted maintenance and repairs,” said KESC officials, adding that the utility has removed 20 per cent of the total 120 faults reported in two days.
Meanwhile, labour union leaders have vowed to take to the streets if the KESC refuses to reinstate the workers. “Not a single bulb in the city would be allowed to light up if negotiations fail,” warned labour union chairman Akhlaque Ahmed, adding that, “the workers who are driven to commit suicide can set the rulers’ palaces ablaze”.
He was addressing an urgent press conference with other leaders. The joint press conference was held on Sunday evening at the site of the sit-in outside the KESC’s headquarters in Gizri.
“We, the workers, have decided to drown the city in darkness if we are not reinstated,”a sacked worker told The Express Tribune. The decision to get rid of the workers was being heard in court and it was on January 20, when one of the hearings was held, that they found out they had been sacked, said Ahmed. The next date of hearing is January 24. The union would wait for another 24 hours and if till then, the negotiations have not reached a positive conclusion they would launch a movement.
The upcoming summer will be a horrible one because the utility has sacked workers who are part of the maintenance teams, claimed Haji Shahzad of the People’s Workers Union (PWU).
He maintained that the workers did not attack any of the staff that was on duty to remove technical faults and in fact some of them actually repaired faults in their areas. The leaders claimed that the KESC has around 400 trucks and all of them are installed with trackers.
The utility has approached the company that owns the trackers and has asked them to stall the vehicles wherever they are. And now they are “pretending” that the protesters have hijacked the trucks. Shahzad also claimed that the utility has hired around 30 trucks in the last two days to “keep up the show” that they are working to repair the faults. “But 30 trucks are not enough for a city as big as Karachi,” the leader said.
He also said that the KESC management had asked the drivers to give back the fuel cards and keys of operational trucks so the increase in the number of faults was inevitable and the KESC was responsible for the suffering of the people.
For its part, KESC said that maintenance employees on duty have been physically attacked and that they were threatened by union workers to stop working. The utility has advised protesters to refrain from obstructing maintenance work and spare the customers.
KESC also said that it has agreed to hold meetings as an independent corporate entity only to seek support for its latest administrative reforms and to clarify any misconceptions. It has participated in talks with the government committees only to explain its position on abolishing non-core and redundant jobs and “no demands were made during these talks from KESC’s side whatsoever”.
The utility neither had any intentions nor did it actually make any demands of subsidies or payment of government dues or low oil prices as certain media reports are claiming. The senior management of KESC only discussed the current issue and maintained their position that the management has the right to make decisions independently without the fear of being attacked.