Children come out of homes to save parents from being sent home
Karachi (February 9, 2012) – As the deadline for accepting the Voluntary Retirement Scheme for the surplus staff of the KESC nears, a large number of dependants of KESC workers staged a protest demonstration outside the KESC head office on Thursday against possible retrenchment of their breadwinners from service.
The protest, which lasted for around six hours in the presence of a heavy contingent of law-enforcement personnel, was organised by the KESC Mazdoor Ittehad, an alliance of various protesting KESC workers’ bodies.
Some of the schoolchildren participating in Gizri’s demo set their schoolbags on fire as a symbolic measure to state that the policy of KESC’s management to render their bread earners unemployed had deprived them of their basic right to education.
A student of Class-V participating in the demo delivered a very emotional speech before setting his schoolbag on fire. He narrated his ordeal at school in continuing with education since his father had been declared surplus in the organization by the KESC’s management.
The distraught student said that he had been ushered out of school after his father failed to pay his tuition fee for three months.
Earlier, he said he had attempted his best to continue with his education even though his parents had been unable to pay for school transportation and his allowance for meals at school.
A good number of special persons among the KESC employees declared surplus in the organization also participated in the protest demonstration.
According to the Chairman of KESC Labour Union, Mohammad Akhlaq Khan, some 67 special persons employed with the KESC had been affected by the recent move by the management to stop salaries of a group of surplus staff to compel them to accept the Voluntary Separation Scheme (VSS).
Khan said that in total there were 600 KESC staffers whose salaries had been stopped by the management to pressure them into accepting the VSS.
Earlier, the leader of the labour union said the management had terminated the services of around 500 people among the surplus staff in order to force them to opt for “the unjust voluntary retirement programme”.
He said the VSS, as the name of the scheme suggested, should remain purely voluntary for the targeted KESC employees, and it should not be made compulsory for the surplus staff.
Khan said that in case the KESC’s management resorted to large-scale downsizing of the surplus staff after the February 10 deadline for accepting the VSS, the KESC Mazdoor Ittehad would once again resort to agitation with the support of its allied trade bodies.
The leader of the labour union said the Mazdoor Ittehad would also pursue all the cases at various tiers of the judiciary with full dedication in favour of a large number of labourers of the KESC terminated or rendered surplus in the organization by the present management.
In a statement on Thursday, the KESC’s management expressed its disappointment over “the unabated and unethical exploitation by the defunct labor union in using women and children as pawns to try and keep steady on their fast losing ground.
“Bringing women and children to protest outside KESC’s head office seems nothing less than the last straw on the camel’s back, given the fact that over 70 percent of the 4,500 non-core workers have already chosen to part ways by opting for the Voluntary Separation Scheme (VSS), which is extending an average of Rs1,500,000 per worker,” said the KESC statement.
“The former labor union, rather than playing its due role, had since long chosen to go off-track, firstly by engaging and coaxing their fellow members to resort to subversive activities against their own company and then moving onto street theatrics by staging self-immolation to the now use of women and children to partake in their illegal protest.
“What these self-serving, former union leaders are trying to cover up is the fact that KESC has so far spent Rs4.5 billion as payout to 3,200 of their own fellow workers. “These non-core workers have on an average been given a sum equivalent to their five years salary so that (they) can move on towards a financially stable future and have not been shown the door empty-handed as falsely being hyped by the minority agitating lot,” claimed the KESC’s statement.
KESC has again informed its non-core workers that February 10 is the last day for submission and acceptance of the VSS package after which these workers would lose the opportunity for availing the VSS offer.
(Published in TheNews on 10-2-2012)