Vaccination suspended at Karachi Expo Centre as staff observes strike

Published November 2, 2021
A file photo of the field isolation hospital set up at the Karachi Expo Centre. — White Star/File
A file photo of the field isolation hospital set up at the Karachi Expo Centre. — White Star/File

KARACHI: Vaccination at the Expo Centre was temporarily suspended on Monday when data entry operators and vaccinators observed a strike over non-payment of their salaries, forcing many people to leave for home without getting vaccinated.

The protest caused chaos at the Covid-19 mass immunisation centre set up at the Expo Centre as the staffers chanted slogans against the government. They claimed that they had not been paid for eight months.

The vaccination process resumed after government officials held talks with the protesting staffers and assured them that they would be paid their dues soon.

A source said it was the second time within four months that the vaccination had been suspended on the same issue.

Health dept says Covid-19 vaccination resumed after brief disruption

“The process was briefly suspended as several staffers at the facility are working directly under the health department and paid monthly salaries. The protest was organised by a section of employees hired by a third party,” said health department spokesperson Atif Vighio.

The company, he said, had replaced several of its employees, but did not share updated information about their staff that led to the delay in payment of salaries.

“It claims that its total workforce at the facility is 180 though in reality only 60 to 80 of its people are actually attending to their rotational duties,” he said.

Asked to explain why the health department did not sort out that matter for good, Mr Vighio said staff’s grievances would be looked into and their dues would be cleared soon.

He could not provide data on the total staff strength at the Expo Centre.

Workload reduced

Sources said the workload at the Expo Centre had significantly reduced over the months and recently the health department had closed down one of the two halls dedicated for that purpose.

They questioned the health department’s decision of continuing its contract with the company in question as now the workload at the Expo Centre could be managed by its own staff.

“Besides, the government should have hired the staff directly instead of involving any third party. This indicates some kind of malpractice (on behalf of the government).

“If the government had thought it wise to outsource the job, it should have ensured in the agreement with the company that staffers are paid on time. Else, it should have been fined. Apparently, if an agreement exists at all, it completely favours the company,” said a senior health department official on the condition of anonymity.

Right now, the sources said, over 200 people had been hired for the registration purpose at the facility.

Last year, the government turned the Karachi Expo Centre into a coronavirus vaccination centre. The relevant minister had also visited the centre to review the proposal and get a briefing from experts about the possibility of the plan. The facility was finally launched this year in May.

Published in Dawn, November 2nd, 2021

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