Case raises concerns regarding safety of hundreds of maintenance teams
A supervisor at the K-Electric has tested positive for the novel coronavirus and has been shifted to the quarantine centre at Karachi’s Expo Centre.
The staffer, who worked for a third-party contractor of the power distributor, was part of a maintenance unit in Karachi’s Defence locality.
He was taken into custody by a team of health and security officials who raided the KE’s IBC in the area.
Three other employees, who were part of the same maintenance unit, were also taken for tests. They were released after having tested negative.
The case has raised concerns regarding the welfare of hundreds of maintenance teams deployed in Karachi without any protective gear, at a time when the number of coronavirus cases is rising in the city.
The third-party vendor system, introduced after KE’s acquisition by its current owner Abraaj Group, has previously come under criticism because of the poor working conditions, particularly the lack of protective equipment for maintenance staff dealing with high-voltage currents without any health insurance.
The gravity of the situation can be understood from the pressure on the power distributor to maintain supply in residential areas with people confined to their homes due to the pandemic.
“We have been struggling to get the rights for our workforce for the last decade,” said Muhammad Akhlaque, a representative of the KE labour union.
The power distribution company was using the third-party vendor system as it didn’t want to give rights to its workforce, he said.
“It was the same reason that the current management retrenched thousands of technical and maintenance staff 10 years ago,” Akhlaque said.
He demanded immediate “termination of the third-party system to ensure labour rights”.
The KE confirmed that an employee associated with a third-party contractor had tested positive for the virus.
All support was being extended to the staffer and his family, KE spokesperson Noor Afshan said.
“KE has also arranged testing for all who interacted with the individual concerned,” she said.
The spokesperson said that all those who interacted with the infected staffer had been isolated and their premises disinfected.