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Punjab textile units laying off workers

December 24, 2012

A worker examines fabric at a textile factory in Faisalabad, Pakistan. – AP (File Photo)

LAHORE, Dec 24: Punjab’s textile industry, which has been forced to close down its operations after the ministry of water and power totally disconnected power supply to all large- to medium-scale factories for an indefinite time at the weekend to bridge growing supply gap, has announced to lay off workers and launch street protests unless electricity is restored on Friday.

The decision made at an emergent meeting of the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (Aptma) on Monday.

It is for the first time that power supply to the industry has been completely disconnected in Punjab or elsewhere in the country, resulting in halt to production at all large- to medium-scale industrial units outside industrial estates in the province as electricity supply gap crossed 5000MW.

Gas supplies for captive generations have already been curtailed to six hours a day six days a week to divert maximum gas to domestic users.

“Those who are advising the government to cut electricity supplies to the industry at the cost of jobs and foreign exchange earnings are misleading it. You (the government) cannot get votes (in the coming election) by providing electricity to domestic consumers and forcing industrial shutdown and rendering millions jobless in one province. It is bad politics,” a former Aptma president said after the ministry refused to immediately restore industrial connections. The responsibility for any adverse reaction from the industry and lay-offs from Friday would rest with those who had decided to shut down the industry, he warned.

Sources in the industry told Dawn that the ministry of water and power secretary Nargis Sethi had plainly declined the Aptma leadership’s request for power restoration to restart industrial production in the province.

She had told the Aptma leaders that the situation was unlikely to change for at least next 15 days, requesting not to layoff their workers. Later, the ministry promised to restore power supply to the industry after three days on the intervention of higher authorities.

When contacted, a ministry spokesman from Islamabad told Dawn that they were “trying hard” to restore power to the industry in the next few days. But he didn’t sound very confident. Generation capacity of at least 3600MW is lying idle because the power plants do not have oil or gas to produce electricity. Another 2000MW is not operating in the name of “maintenance and repair”, according to Pepco officials.

Aptma chairman Ahsan Bashir blamed mismanagement of the ministry for the current power shortages, saying the Aptma was acting with utmost restraint in the wake of severe energy shortages in spite of pressure from the member mills to start public protests against total disconnection.

Aptma-Punjab Chairman Shahzad Ali Khan said the Discos had started disconnecting power supply to the $17 billion industry from 3pm on Dec 22 and had declined to provide electricity to hundreds of thousands of workers living in their labour colonies.

The Pakistan Textile Exporters Association (PTEA) said complete and indefinite disconnection of power supply to the industrial units would have drastic consequences for the economy.

Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association  Chairman Sajid Saleem Minhas said the complete suspension of gas and electricity to the textile industry would adversely affect the supply chain and value-added industry and exports.