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Massive Anger Errupts Against Sacking of 4000 Karachi Electricity Workers by Riaz Ahmed on Friday, January 21, 2011 at 2:03pm January 21, 2011. Karachi. Over 9000 KESC workers are staging a sit-in in front of head-office in Karachi. Chanting slogans and listenging to speaches they are the ones leading the massive movement against cuts and sackings. Thier struggle is a test-case for the ruling class. Their victory will be a further blow to the dithering rulers who may collapse if the workers succeed. Its a mater of life and death for the renovation of working class struggle in Pakistan. Midnight Jan 19 and the privatized Karachi Electric Supply Company sacked 4000 of its 11000 employees. This is a massive attack on working class in Pakistan. In the name of efficiency and restructuring the ruling class of private capitalists and the parliamentary democrats have aimed at breaking the back of Pakistan working class. After weeks of internal fued the Pakistani rulers are united under the 'ten point program of improving governance'. They do not agree on imposing a new sales tax nor on hiking petrouleum prices but the ruling PPP, MQM and ANP and the opposing PMLN agree on downsizing public sector enterprise and rapid privatisation. But the KESC workers have sent a strong message -the cuts will be resisted on a massive scale. Workers are furios at this sudden attack. A security gaurd told this scribe that 'the managemnet has hired private security guards who are paid 8000 rupees by the private company, hence they are involved in regular thefts and are a loss to KESC' another said 'the temporary guards cannot be trusted but the company only to get rid of us premanent workers has out-sourced our jobs'. A driver said he was offered Rs 700,000 in VSS hand-shake, 'what can i do with this meagre amont? I did not accept VSS, now they have sacked me. How will i feed my family of four? Have they no sense?' A office clerk said the 'sackings will massively effect electricity operations, this is an action designed to create chaos'. A driver said 'Workers are ready to struggle till we are restored, there is no option for us. We either stop them working or die, the bosses have everything but we nothing'. Early 20 January morning and the KESC sacked and remaining workers descended from all over the 17million population Karachi and started their march from Power House situated in city centre towards the multimillion dollar office of their bosses situated in posh Defence Housing Authority. The workers were on their way and the TV channels were flashing news about 'destruction and fire' caused by protesting workers in the multistory builiding. It was obvious, not only the midnight attack was planned but the management had a design to defame the movement before it began. Throughout the day while the 9000 workers staged a peaceful sit-in in front of the office the TV channels showed a few people burning and attacking cars and equipment. Within hours TV anchors were discussing violence and the proposed threats to 'consumers' if the strike escalates into a power-black-out instead of the brutality of sacking of 4000 permanent workers. KESC closed its offices and claimed that the workers were threatening staff. KESC bosses are shown regularly presenting the violence as a threat with no mention of their actions of sacking workers while the union leaders or ordinary workers are never asked to comment. The 4000 workers were sacked after three weeks of management campaign of Voluntary Separation Scheme failed as the workers protested and only 400 filed for the hand-shake. The Collective Bargaining Agent (CBA union) went to the courts and obtained a stay-order till Jan 20 that stopped the managment from sacking workers and the workers from strike action. But the management continued to harass workers and attacked zero hours Jan 20. However the union leadership is insisting on not calling for a strike action now and insists on 'peaceful' protests. This was a strategy adopted in 2004 when the KESC was privatised after 4 months of workers protests. The union leadership of KESC Labour Union (CBA elections were not held since 1998) led the protests and staged rallies and marches involving over 3000 workers at a time and even involving some of the 5000 temporary workers at that time. But the leadership, comprising what is traditionally called right-wing, abstained from a direct confrontation and did not call for a strike. The result was privatisation of KESC. This privatisation was opposed by small traders as well as they feared rising rates by the private owners. It was also opposed by big national capitalists as KESC was sold to Al-Baraj group at throw-away prices. Later by 2007 the ruling class was split on privatisation as these were seen as a sell off to international capital which was interested in selling massive assets of it obtained at very low price. KESC's privatisation has been a disaster. The mangement changed hands several times and the company was eventually sold to what is generally called a crony of now President Zaradari. It gets annual subsidy ranging from 6 to 12 billion rupees annually since privatisation as it raises tarrif and the government is forced to ask it to trim them down. Simillarly over 300 billion rupees are given to other utility companies, all privatised by the various government since 1992. Massive shortfall of power and power breakdowns are a daily feature of Karachi life since 2004 when the private management took over. Power shut-down of 4 to 12 hours is a routine throughout the year as the private company saves its billions on fuel and relies on gas or borrowed electricity from government owned power company. The entire infrastructure of KESC is in shambles and massive losses are blamed on power theft. Hence privatisation is not seen as a solution anymore. Since last 2 years inflation has soared and unemployment has increased exponentially. That means the sacking of 4000 workers is seen as a massive blow by the population in general. KESC has a tarnished image in media as cross-section of classes suffer from its profit-taking. But the rich and powerful are uniting, the media bosses and electricity companies are both united against the workers and hence the imagery of violence. They fear a generalised fightback. And after the 2004 defeat the KESC workers did fightback and it was a massive regain. In 2008 the KESC Labour Union spearheaded the move to get voting rights of the 5500 temporary workers. Within months the campaign succeeded and the CBA elections were held which were won by KESC Labour Union on the promise of fighting downsizing. The PPP and MQM joined hands agianst the otherwise non-political Labour Union but were defeated by a narrow margin. That margin may become important in coming days. Downsizing of KESC had been in the pipeline since 2004 but the management feared resistance. In 2009 the 5500 temporary became permanent, it was massive victory. Furthermore the workers got a pay-raise after 12 years. The two combined powered the Labour Union to become a massive force. Since 2007 the ruling class is split on further privatisation and downsizing of working class in government or utility private companies. However recently the opposition PMLN came to rescue cut-back program of PPP and its allies after months of deafeat after defeat of government in imposing new VAT type taxes or raise in petroleum prices. The 10-point program has downsizing and privatisation as supreme. While the major issues of price-hike and unempolyment are paid lip service the rulers are now united, though temprarily, in cutting public sector expenditure and thus their support to KESC attack. However they are testing the KESC case. Hence there is a delay in the 'outcome' of talks between PPP

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and PMLN. This shows the rulers are scared of a reaction by workers. They need to show they are cutting back on public expenditure and raising internal resources by privatisation so as to meet IMF conditions which has held back the last-tranche of 11 billion dollar loan that started in 2008. Hence the local chapters of PPP, PMLN and MQM are supporting workers in their struggle against sackings and local leaders visit the sit-in at KESC headoffice. MQM has announced that it will be with workers till the restoration. But MQM is in negotiations with the managment and not the elected workers union. Thus there is a danger that the MQM will soon split the workers and attack the workers, maybe this time from the front. A large number of the sacked include the permanent workers hired in 2004 when the MQM supported privatisation and got thousands appointed on contract basis. Hence escalation of the struggle is necessary. The sit-ins should quickly move towards strike, else the pro-privatisation parties will attack the working class. KESC attack on workers is an attack of the entire working class in Pakistan. Throughout the world rulers are attacking working class conditions to force them to pay for rulers' crises, workers have won wherever there has been a fightback. Neo-libearl policies of privatisation and sacking unite the Pakistani ruling class. The likes of PPP and PMLN and MQM need to be shunted out, they have shown they will squeeze every job and make workers pay for their crises. Its time to join the KESC struggle and spread it. more details will appear soon on worldtowinpk.net

Latest Jan 25: KESC management restores 4500 workers after prolonged negotiations with government, workers jubiliant. However by Jan 27 the management again started propaganda about sackings in future.`

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KESC workers sacked