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July 27, 2011

Decision to retrench KESC workers withdrawn

July 27, 2011


KARACHI: The protesting workers of the Karachi Electric Supply Company on Tuesday announced the conclusion of their months-long protest drive against retrenchments of their surplus colleagues.
The announcement followed an agreement between the management and the Labour Union of the KESC after marathon overnight negotiations at the Governor House here, ending their mutual hostilities. However, the ‘peace accord of the KESC’ only deferred the retrenchments of the utility’s surplus staff for the time being.
It is yet to be seen how much the protesting union had gained from the agreement it signed with the utility’s management as it did not completely rule out or close the chapter of retrenchments of surplus staff and also failed to revive the original positions of the surplus workers.
Since Monday evening, the Sindh Governor House was at the centre stage of intense negotiations, talks and shuttle diplomacy to resolve the months-long dispute of the KESC, seriously marring and compromising functioning of the privatised power utility, especially in the form of unattended electricity faults and erratic electricity billing operations.
Representatives of cityís administration, ruling Pakistan Peopleís Party, and management of the KESC remained encamped at the Governor House all along the Monday night till morning, engaged in intense negotiations, under aegis of Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad, to resolve dispute between the KESC management and protesting labourers.
All along, the governor remained involved in the intense negotiations launched to decide fate of 4,500 surplus non-core staff of the KESC offered a voluntary retirement programme by management of the organisation.
Commissioner Karachi Muhammad Hussain Syed, played an important mediatory role between the KESC management and the Labour Union as he also shuttled between the Governor House and his office, where the leaders of labour union were entrenched, to fine-tune points of the

agreements for getting essential consent of the two parties of the dispute over each point of the accord.
In the final hours, before signing of the agreement, the protesting employees of the KESC moved to the Fawara Chowk near the Governor House from outside the Press Club to get to know the outcome of the talks in sheer frustration and excitement about their fate in the organization. The television channels kept telecasting different updates about the talks at the Governor House throughout the night.
ìThe talks and negotiations saw many ups and downs and at one point in the night, it seemed that no agreement could be reached,î said President of KESC Labour Union Usman Baloch who is also one of the signatory of agreement on behalf of the protesting utilityís workers.
One of the vital points of the agreement said: ìPost FVSS (final Voluntary Separation Scheme) retrenchment deferredî.
The point number two said: ìDispute Resolution Committee to be announced within one week, including representatives from the KESC, workers, and administration, which will address all disputed matters, including FIRs and adjustment against abolished positions as per entitlement.î
A KESC statement, issued later in the day to explain provisions of the agreement, said that under the agreement, the Voluntary Separation Scheme for non-core employees would continue in their best interest, offering attractive benefits and bright future, and all non-core workers can apply under this scheme without any coercion from any side.
ìUntil such time that the Dispute Resolution Committee reaches a conclusion, all non-core workers who have been offered the VSS would be exempted from attendance or performance of duty. Potential and possible adjustment of non-core workers in core functions will be extremely limited in number, following a strict merit regime as determined by the management,î said the statement.
The Code of Conduct, also a part of the signed agreement between the two parties, said that all kind of protests would come to an immediate end and all ìDharnasî (sit-ins) will also end. It said all the offices/consumer service centres/installations of the KESC will be opened for normal business activities i.e. business as usual to ensure service to the consumers/citizens of Karachi.
The agreement further said the worker unions and management will ensure complete industrial peace and harmony at the KESC. Usman Baloch said that after signing of the agreement, the Labour Union had ensured that no leftover surplus staff, who had not accepted the voluntary separation scheme, would be laid off from the organisation and instead, they would be adjusted against positions in core functions of the power utility. ìLike for example a security guard after review of its role and functions in the organisation would become a Karkun (worker) in the same grade but related to core functions of the KESC,î he said.
He said that the Karachi commissioner and the deputy commissioner South would act as guarantors to the agreement to ensure that no downsizing of the surplus KESC staff would take place and their jobs with the KESC remained intact.
A separate undertaking signed by the commissioner, deputy commissioner and the additional IGP Sindh, connected to the agreement, said the Karachi Administration will ensure that all agreed upon points as agreed in the agreement and duly signed by the management and the union are implemented in letter and spirit.
The undertaking said the violation of the agreement/hindrance in work or physical disturbance at any workplace of the KESC will be dealt with swiftly as per prevalent civil/criminal laws and the miscreants will be apprehended without any exception.
The KESC statement issued in this regard said that none of the dismissed or terminated employees had been taken back. Likewise, no charge sheets are being withdrawn and the process would continue and be expedited. On the other hand, some core employees who had been absent from their work during the period of unrest without permission or grant of leave will not receive salary or any relief, whatsoever, said the KESC statement.
Following the announcement that the KESC management and the Labour Union had reached an agreement and their mutual dispute resolved, the protesting labourers wrapped up their protest camp at the Press Club, they set up earlier this year on April 29, amid celebrations, exchange of greetings, and distribution of sweets. The workers also later gathered at the Elander Roadís Power House of the KESC for celebration and merrymaking.
However, the power consumers in the city who were supposed to get relief due to normalisation of operations and functions of the KESC, continued to suffer prolonged hours of load shedding on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, in the statement issued by the power utility, the KESC appreciated the Sindh governor and the city administration for their positive inputs into resumption of repair and maintenance work that would provide great relief to the outage-stricken general public of Karachi.
The repair of local faults all across the city had been blocked by striking non-core employees during the past over two months, said the KESC statement. KESC said that the governor played key role to resolve the issues through his untiring and dedicated efforts, which needed to be cherished.
ìTo ensure immediate relief to the consumers of Karachi, all business and maintenance operations of the KESC have started to return to normalcy from Tuesday morning after prolonged talks between Karachi administration and the management. The top and foremost priority before the KESC has been to resume providing best possible services to around 20 million power users in the city that had been suffering unduly for many weeks because of the prolonged fault-based outages caused by delay in repair work,î said the KESC statement.
ìThe management in an internal circular to all the employees has urged them to now join hands and work tirelessly to provide stable power supply and prompt service without further delay in the best interest of the city dwellers in order to provide them immediate relief. KESC hopes that the city administration would provide all support and protection that it has guaranteed for the sake of peaceful and smooth resumption of functioning,î said the KESC statement.
It said that payout under the Voluntary Separation Scheme to all those who have already opted for it, will be handed over on a priority basis. The KESC statement said that no Labour Union worker will resort to any sort of violence, whatsoever. And if anyone is found in disrupting peace or the operating environment, will be reported to the civil administration which had assured to take action against the culprits. Both the parties will fully adhere to the Sindh High Court Orders (CPD 1428/2011) and ensure a fear-free working environment prevails in the utility, the statement concluded.