Islamabad - The employees of the Islamabad Electric Supply Company on Thursday locked their offices and staged a protest demonstration against privatisation of the company. “The government wants to make quick buck by selling one of the most profitable company and to deprive us of jobs. We will not let the privatisation happen and will observe strike till government does not take its decision back,” said syed Wajid Ali Kazmi, while addressing the employees. It was hot and humid as mercury was touching 37 degree Celsius but the protestors were passionate. “We started our strike on last Wednesday on the call of the All Pakistan Wapda Hydro Electric Workers Union (CBA) and blocked the Islamabad Highway,” said Syed Tasweer Hussain Zaidi. He said the process of privatisation has started. “Two days ago some consultants visited the head office and now we have no other option other than to go on strike,” he added. All cadre officers were present during the protest and union leaders also delivered flurry speeches.
The protestors said what happened when they privatised PTCL as half of its employees were sent home. “We do not want it happen here. We are protesting for our future,” they added. Some alleged that on the instructions of Ministry of Water and Power, the distribution company was over billing customers just to show heavy profits and to lure investors and get good bid. Zameer Haider said that IESCO is number one in terms of recovery and offering services. “Its monthly profit is around Rs2 billion,” he said, adding customers were sent excessive bills for the last several months just to get good offer.
A union leader told the protestors that in 1998 there were only 1.2 million consumers and 16,000 employees were working in the company but now in 2015, there are 2.4 million consumers in the region while the number of employees has been reduced to 13,000. IESCO’s core function is to supply, distribute and sell power (electricity) in the area from Attock to Jheleum and from the river Indus to River Neelum in Kashmir.
It services 2.1 million consumers directly but touches the lives of more than 25 million people living in six districts. The speakers severely criticised the government for imposing imperialist policies on workers in the name of democracy and privatisation.
When contacted a top government official said that there was no one clean in power sector. “There could be less and more corrupts, but if someone says only ministry is making wrong decisions, it is a lie, the staff is corrupt, they make money by stealing electricity, meter readers do not perform their jobs, field staff does not prompt on complains, the technical staff does not bother to perform its duty and resultantly low voltage and shutdowns occur frequently,” he added. “If they are clean, why they are shouting against privatisation, no employer can sake efficient employee,” he said, adding the employees are afraid that after privatisation they would not be able to steal and make corruption.
He denied allegations against the ministry, saying that privatisation was completely carried out by the Privatisation Commission and they had nothing to do with it.
IESCO STAFF claimed that over billing is done on the directives of the Ministry of Water and Power generally, however in some cases it is mere a mistake of meter reader who has to read more than 200 meters due to shortage of staff. They claimed that IESCO chief is supporting them, as his office is also closed from last two days.
No IESCO official including media department responded to telephone calls, when contacted for official version, as their offices remained locked throughout the day.