KESC sacking: Wrong time for the right decision

Published: January 22, 2011
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KESC has 4.000 too many employees

The weakening economy is impacting every sector and one of the worst hit seems to be the Karachi Electric Supply Corporation (KESC). The company was already a victim of corruption and a house to ‘ghost employees’ when General Musharraf privatised the utility company in an attempt to provide an uninterrupted supply of electricity to the city.
The new, improved KESC fulfilled its promise.  The new organization was restructured on revolutionary lines. Initiatives against electricity theft were introduced and load shedding hours were reduced to as little as 3 hours (compared with more than 10 hours). KESC took all necessary measures to turn a white elephant of acompany into productive organization.

In this attempt to make the company financially viable the KESC recently decided to get rid of those employees who were considered a burden on organization. This means the KESC was forced to lay off 4,000 unproductive workers, while 500 employees opted for Voluntarily Separation Scheme (VSS) under a cost-cutting drive.

Who got fired?

Most of the laid-off workers were from five different categories:

1. security guards,

2. bill distributors,

3. sanitary workers,

4. drivers and

5. clerical workers

They were offered one month’s advance salary and gratuity benefits. Collective bargaining agents and union leaders have rejected the policy and opted to confront the management.

Was the KESC wrong?

For days the KESC head office has been surrounded by a huge mob of sacked employees and their sympathisers (as well as a few banners of several political parties.) Live media coverage  of this protest has resulted in garnering public sympathy for those who were removed from their positions.

But KESC is a business not an employment agency. Perhaps they could have taken a more conscientious route to avoid this post-decision chaos.

The politics of right-sizing

At this point in time mass downsizing was an unwise step by the company. The country’s economic situation is alarming and government and all other political parties are trying to capitalise on issues to gain public sympathy.

This makes KESC’s rather necessary step look impudent. It would have been ideal for the company to work in tandem with labour unions to devise a “safe strategy” for right-sizing.

The company should also revise it’s appraisals policy which could determine profit and productivity measures.

What to do now?

Now that KESC has held off on it’s decision, all employees should systematically be included in a wage reduction program. It would not be fair to slash the wages of entry-level or non-management recruits only, such decisions will further spur discontentment among employees who were initially being targeted.  However as soon as the wages are reduced with no security of appraisals, the non performing staff already working on less wages will probably look for the soon-to-expire- lucrative Voluntarily Separation Scheme (VSS) deal.

In short, the company should devise a smart strategy to divide workers unions with cost reduction plans which will definitely help KESC achieve productivity and its objectives in the long term.

tanzeel.ahmad

Tanzeel Ahmad

A UAE based marketing professional who is interested in politics and cultural issues. He blogs at www.tanzeel.wordpress.com

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Khadim Shah

    clever advises to kesc….Recommend

  • parvez

    Agree it was the right decision but handled really badly. The head of some one very high up in KESC must roll.Recommend

  • Saad Durrani

    They should have done the cuts in parts. Doing in a big lot makes too much attention.Recommend

  • http://www.apnijobs.com Abu Hamza

    Second the comment above that they should have done the cuts in parts, especially in these drastic times.

    While KESC can do anything to cut losses, it should also consider improving on vitals like line losses and debt recovery.

    By the way, is this a paid post by PR Dept of KESC? Come on, they have failed to do anything for Karachi. Doing 3-5 hours load shedding in winters can’t be considered as an achievement. Recommend

  • http://syedaabidabokhari.wordpress.com The Only Normal Person Here.

    Well done Tanzeel. I sincerely wish and hope they take your precious suggestions.Recommend

  • Saad Durrani

    @Abu Hamza:
    Thank you Hamza. I was thinking about the same stuff. There are places with 4.5 hours of load shedding and as far as I remember, some years back Winters were load shedding free.Recommend

  • http://www.tanzeel.wordpress.com Tanzeel

    @Abu Hamza:
    No this article is not a part of any PR campaign. I am not associated with KESC at all however as a consumer I find myself privileged to bear only 3 hour load shedding at my home comparing rest of the country having more than 12 hrs of loadshedding. I still remember before privatization what used to happen in this city and how badly complaints were responded. If KESC has decided to serve its consumer by reducing the loadshedding to zero we must support their management decisions. Recommend

  • Azhar

    I strongly condemn this suggestion.

    Means no ethical views for the employees, they have right to down size there company but why not from upper level management? Where each manager has 15 lac or more of it salary doesn’t they affect the company revenue? There expenses? Mr. tanzeel Ahmed when you start your room AC then you don’t know that where are you. Sitting in front of computer and typing is easy but when a person work for 12 hours and he is only the salaried person so tell me what is near you a management revenue scheme or 3 to 4 children of that person?

    You can’t Understand this problem Recommend

  • http://www.tanzeel.wordpress.com Tanzeel

    @Azhar:
    Lucrative Voluntarily Separation Scheme was an element of ethics and moral in this episode but the “unproductive employees” including truck drivers, sanitary workers etc who are earning more than Rs. 30K per month for trivial jobs preferred plundering the company which they can’t in any other organization. The current status of company is that the union leaders are threatening regular staff and not allowing them to continue work. Such Ghunda elements should be treated with iron hand and incase if KESC reappoints the staff they should cut their wages that cause lasting resentment to their morale.Recommend

  • Tanweer Ahmed

    Someone should also look into the background. During its public sector era, KESC used was first choice to reward with jobs to political workers, and their friends and relatives as well as those who could reward them with handsome bribes. Every government had made thousands of such employments. I believe there must be at least another 4000 who were appointed in KESC not to work there but to work for political parties and political majesties. For sure, no private company can afford to continue with them indefinitely.Recommend

  • Deen Sheikh

    All i will say this was long over due, for decades Kesc has had surplus emplyoees in thr 1000s, its now a private sector company, its not an employment agency to pay wages to people who dont work or contribute. Unions an their political support are making a mess of things. Unions often use their political backing to push around private sector employers, utterly disgraceful.Recommend

  • KESC

    Nicely put up TanzeelRecommend

  • Shahid Khan

    Congrats kesc workers have been reinstated
    down with capitalismRecommend

  • Sanya

    Politics has skewed the situation.
    I cannot agree with you more. Recommend

  • parvez

    Yes the KESC workers have been reinstated and we the paying consumers will be footing the bill for this ( I think it’s Rs 0.15 per unit extra ) move which was more politically motivated than business oriented. Funny is it not that the people who make such decisions do not pay things like electric bills, telephone bills, petrol bills, medical bills etc.Recommend

  • Fizza

    KESC would have hired fresh employees on contract (note much less wages) after sacking these employees. You are talking about the politics of unions but KESC is not innocent either. I dont mean here that it was wrong to downsize but there’s a way to do it. You can’t just fire 4,000 employees all at the same time. Recommend

  • http://www.tanzeel.wordpress.com Tanzeel

    @Fizza:
    A thorough process was followed in this whole process including the offer of VSS and notices, they were not fired just like that.Recommend

  • Amer

    @Tanzeel: I agreed with your blog 100% but all 4000+ are all reinstated and that too after a bunch of “politicians” did “negotiations” in the governor house. What do you say to this now? Doesn’t this show that this is now played out as a political game by the political mafia of the city for their own gain? Recommend

  • http://www.tanzeel.wordpress.com Tanzeel

    @Amer:
    As I already said that timings and modus operandi of whole exercise was wrong, KESC should have systematically cut these jobs in parts, had political parties not involved in this process there would have been chaos in the city as those employees were not allowing any other kesc offices to work properly. Political parties have played a role of liaison b/w collective bargaining agents and kesc management, now KESC should rework on their existing strategy and sweep these employees sensibly.Recommend

  • http://www.bonfriends.org/ask-super-sis/ Aisha Khan – Relationship

    KESC did right!! Great writing TanzeelRecommend

  • Hammad Siddiqui

    In a competitive and open economy, government should focus on providing skill development facilities to unemployed so that they become useful part of national workforce.

    Running private sector not Government’s business. http://www.cipe.org/blog/?p=7431Recommend

  • http://nill. osama

    Dear,
    AOA,
    I want to ask something about kesc firstly in 20-jan-2011, Management fired to 4000 workers in kesc this is very cheep behavior i think understand the management labor feeling because kesc labor is a very important role in kesc. kesc is a sensitive farm and without labour kesc do not be success.
    i advised to the management please feel the labor feeling and don’t jobless their a many and their family depend their salary.
    i again advised this management please left this kesc and hand over government because government is most batter handle the kesc. Recommend

  • http://nill. osama

    @Aisha Khan – Relationship:
    how can you say that kesc is writeRecommend

  • http://nill. osama

    @Fizza:
    Madam fizza,
    Please give me a one short answer if i say to you i give you 08 lake rupees and said that you are fired so how can you do.

    Note:- since30 years you are permanent employee in kesc. Recommend

  • zaheer

    KESC labor union is creating resistence for taking of
    vss scheme. and all labor are very said because they want to left kesc because their finencially position have very down in strike .i want to say in clear word Labor union have criminal and terrorist activities all kesc system have disturb by labor union .kesc officers performs their duties on footpath and labor union is firing on officers and beat on footpath because they serve
    of consumers and drive of kesc system.
    i want to ask my pakistani brothers Kesc Management is on Right or Labor union is on Right with regards.Recommend