Govt prohibited all forms of union activities in power sector

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ISLAMABAD: The caretaker government has prohibited all forms of union activities in the power sector ahead of the proposed induction of the private sector for divestment and management contracts.

This decision encompasses all public sector power companies, including those in the business of generation, transmission, distribution and sale of electricity, bringing them under the scope of the “Pakistan Essential Service (Maintenance) Act (Pesma) 1952”.

A formal decision was taken by the federal cabinet through circulation on a summary moved by the interior ministry at the request of the power division, a senior government official confirmed.

He said the cabinet approved “the application of the Pakistan Essential Service (Maintenance) Act 1952 to all classes of employment” under Pakistan Power Sector Entities, including distribution companies (Discos), generation companies (Gencos) and National Transmission and Despatch Company (NTDC) of the Ministry of Energy, Power Division (MEPD).

Under the decisions, all these companies have been declared as “essential services” under Section 3 of the Pesma 1952 “to restrict all kind of union activities for a period of six months”, extendable for another six months.

The government has already decided in principle to exclude the option of offering power companies to distribution and is currently working on divesting two Discos  one loss-making and one profitable to be followed by a subsequent course of action about other entities.

The interior ministry, which deals with the Pesma 1952 for the purpose of civilian services under the rules of business, stated in its summary to the cabinet that Discos under the MEPD had launched a campaign against electricity theft and non-payment of dues from electricity defaulters with the help of the respective provinces.

The monitoring of the campaign was being done on a daily basis. It is high time to check and constrain the activities of these unions; otherwise, this will take a heavy toll on the performance of the Discos as well as the finances of the federation, it added.

The MEPD also stated that in FY23 to FY24, it was apprehended that Discos may incur a loss of around Rs589 billion, which includes under-recovery and losses beyond the threshold set by the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority.

The Pesma 1952 deals with maintenance of certain essential services. As per Section 3 of the Act, the federal government may, by notification in the official Gazette, declare any employment or class of employment for a period of six months, extendable for further periods not exceeding six months.

The federal government is of the opinion that such employment or class of employment is essential service for the purpose of “securing the defence of the security of Pakistan or any part thereof and maintenance of such supplies or services as relates to any matter with regard to which Central Legislature power to make laws and are essential to the life of the community”.

Keeping in view the above position, the interior ministry demanded “an application of Essential Services (Maintenance) Act, 1952 to all classes of employment under all power sector entities, including Discos, Gencos and NTDC, in the business of generation, transmission and distribution, with immediate effect, under Section 3 of the said Act” to ensure uninterrupted operations of the organisations.

Under the law, the authorised officers of the government have the powers to order any or all the employees to remain in specific areas and avoid going into another area without prior approval.

A magistrate has the powers under the law to try such offence summarily in accordance with the procedure laid down for summary trial in case an employee or group of employees disobey any lawful order given in the course of such employment, or attempt to persuade any person to disobey any such order or refuse to work or to continue to work.

It is also an offence in case someone departs from any area specified in an order without the consent of the relevant authority and without reasonable excuse or discontinues the employment.

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