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February 4, 2012

Two KESC workers attempt self-immolation against lay-offs


February 4, 2012

Two workers of the Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) tried to immolate themselves on Friday, as a large number of disgruntled workers protested outside the power utility’s head office against their unresolved issues, including the long-pending problem of surplus staff.
According to Lateef Mughal, a leader of the KESC Mazdoor Ittehad, the two labourers — Khalid and Shafi — attempted to set themselves on fire but their protesting comrades timely doused the flames and rescued them.
Mughal said that Shafi also consumed some quantity of petrol, which he used for igniting a fire and that caused further deterioration of his health condition.
Shafi was under treatment at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre and his condition was said to be out of danger, while Khalid was discharged after he was administered first aid, he added.
He said that both the workers received some burn injuries but these were not critical. He alleged that both the labourers, who attempted self-immolation, had been arbitrarily dismissed from service by the management of the privatised power utility.
Meanwhile, a large number of workers held an hours-long protest outside the KESC head office in Gizri, shouting slogans against the present Abraaj Capital-led management and in favour of the July 26 Governor House agreement whose implementation has long been sought by them for resolving the issue of the surplus staff.
The protesting labourers were also carrying banners inscribed with slogans against the “unjust and anti-labour” policies of the KESC management. A large contingent of police and other law-enforcement agencies’ personnel stood guard near the head office building to prevent any violent incident or a march by the protesters.
Labour leaders of other trade unions active in the city also participated in the protest demonstration to lend support to the KESC workers. Speaking on the occasion, KESC Labour Union leader Mohammad Akhlaq Khan said that

they had been waging a legitimate and justified struggle for securing long-denied rights of the workers.
He said that they would continue with their struggle till the services of all the affected workers of the power utility were restored. Lateef Mughal said that the KESC’s management had wilfully shut down its power generation plants in order to subject its consumers to hours-long loadshedding.
He said that the industrial and business activity had been adversely affected and economic progress had come to a virtual halt in Karachi due to prolonged and frequent power cuts. Meanwhile, the KESC said that over 3,000 non-core employees had already accepted the voluntary separation scheme, while the remaining over 1,000 non-core employees had started availing themselves of the scheme in the final round.
The power utility was exclusively focusing on its core functions of power generation, transmission and distribution while the non-core functions had been outsourced to third party service providers, as done by other utilities like PSO and SSGC to create extra headcount and financial space for core functions, it said.
In its statement, the KESC said: “The non-core employees need to follow the footsteps of their over 3000 co-workers and find a new livelihood for themselves by exercising the option of voluntary separation scheme.
“KESC’s fiscal space is limited and the utility cannot carry the weight of this workless minority any longer. In case the remaining non-core employees do not exercise their option of VSS then the utility would reluctantly have to exercise its reserved and legal option of retrenchment.”
The KESC’s management also condemned what it termed the sensational tricks exercised by a thin minority of activists of the former CBA who had already been dismissed on disciplinary grounds.
“These elements had not only failed to establish their case against the voluntary separation scheme in the eyes of law but lost sympathy of fellow employees as well as society in general by adopting terroristic and highhanded attitude towards simple trade union issues.”
It alleged that the labour union had been carrying out sabotaging and disruptive tactics instead of advocating their point on the negotiations table under the law of the land.
“Realising that their untoward agitation had failed to bring results and any well being to fellow workers, the former union office-bearers whose term as CBA had expired many months ago, had been trying to get it extended through futile pressure building and now they had added elements of political emotions and sensation by staging a farce of self-immolation show,” said the KESC statement. “It is to be noted that these people have also gone to the courts yet they are still trying to settle issues through pressure building tactics which is a clear contempt of the court,” it added.

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