x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Blackouts hit Pakistan's financial capital as workers extend strike

On The Wires: Blackouts have spread to parts of Karachi, Pakistan's financial capital, after workers of Karachi Electric Supply extended their strike into a second week.

Blackouts spread to several parts of Pakistan's financial capital, as workers of Karachi Electric Supply extended their strike into a second week, delaying repairs and maintenance.

At least 20,000 homes are without electricity after workers took illegal possession of office equipment and vehicles, bringing the operation to a standstill, Ayesha Eirabie, spokeswoman for the company, said by phone today.

Forty-five union leaders began a hunger strike on April 29, demanding 4,000 workers who were fired in January and then reinstated at the government's request, be given their previous assignments. Since they went back to work, these employees have been sidelined by the management and kept idle, Haji Shahzad, a union leader, said on the phone today.

The employees were let go after 500 of the 17,000-strong workforce accepted the severance package offered by the utility to reduce redundant jobs. The union represents about 11,000 employees, according to Akhlaq Khan, chairman of the union.

"I can't understand why serious action isn't being taken," Saeed Shafiq, president of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry said by phone today. "We need mental peace and an appropriate environment to do business and run industry."

Several parts of the city have been without power for four straight days, leading to street protests. The provincial government ordered police and paramilitary troops to ensure the safety of the utility's employees and property, according to a statement released on Tuesday.

Karachi, a port city home to 18 million people, contributes 70 per cent of the nation's tax revenue, according to the local government.

Karachi Electric fell 1.3 per cent to 2.32 rupees at the 3.30pm local time close in Karachi trade. The stock has declined 17.4 per cent this year, compared with a 0.5 per cent fall in the benchmark KSE100 Index.

The utility is owned by Dubai's Abraaj Capital, Pakistan's Hasan Associates and Saudi Arabia's Al-Jummaih Group. The government sold a 73 per cent stake in the company for $265 million (Dh973.3m) to Hasan Associates and Al-Jummaih Group in December 2005.

* Bloomberg