FAISALABAD: Abdul Hameed was lying on a makeshift bed placed among powerlooms at Piranwala Chowk, Qadirabad, and waiting for the restoration of power supply suspended about six hours ago.
The powerloom sector is facing eight to nine hours of unscheduled power outages daily, creating a plethora of problems for both workers and factory owners. Owners have to bear financial losses owing to less production and labourers lose a chunk of their wages for working less than their routine.
Talking to Dawn, Hameed, a powerloom operator, says he is unable to run the machines smoothly for the last four to five days in his 12-hour shift.
He says the Faisalabad Electric Supply Company (Fesco) has started more than eight hours of unscheduled power outages landing labourers in a precarious situation.
“Two-hour power suspension means a labourer will lose Rs120 to Rs130. One can calculate the total loss, as thousands of workers are attached with the sector in Faisalabad,” he adds.
In Madinabad, more than eight power loom workers are playing cards as electricity supply to the weaving unit they work in had been been suspended.
“Being labourers does not mean we are free of anxiety caused by power outages,” Mehmoodur Rehman says.
He says the PML-N government during its election campaigns and after coming into power had assured people of smooth electricity supply. However, the situation is no different from what it was during the PPP rule, he says.
The owners too are lamenting the situation.
“How can we focus on workers’ issues when we are finding it difficult to run our units since Fesco started unscheduled power suspension,” says Farooq Ahmed, a powerloom owner from Faizabad.
He says that representatives of the sector will first meet with Fesco high-ups soon with a request to stop the eight-hour power outages. “If Fesco does not respond to our request, the factory owners will go for a shut down until acceptance of their demand. Instead of focusing on our business we are struggling to get smooth electricity supply,” he adds.
A powerloom worker, Tahir Mehmood, criticising politicians of all hue says they are not serious about ridding the country of energy crisis and the situation was worsening.
Muhammad Shahid, a cold drink shop owner, said power outages had been leading to scuffles among labourers. They exchanged harsh words even on minor issues that often led to physical assaults. He also said loadshedding was buffeting his business as labourers purchased things from him promising to pay at the end of the month.
Another factory owner, Ismail, said after a few days, problems for owners would increase as labourers would go for wheat harvesting.
He said during the harvesting season they usually “begged” workers to stay, but “we will not be able to convince them this year because power outages have created serious financial problems for them”.
“Workers will get one-year wheat from a few days of harvesting. They will face financial losses if they work at powerlooms during the harvesting period as unscheduled loadshedding will not serve them.”
Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2015