A huge anti-privatisation rally was organised by the All-Pakistan WAPDA Hydro Electric Union of the Water and Power Development Authority in Islamabad on 18th February, 2015. Workers from all over Pakistan gathered in front of the Islamabad Press Club with red flags and banners against privatisation. This was the largest protest WAPDA has organised in recent times and the workers were determined to fight against this latest attack of the state against workers.
The rally marched from the Islamabad Press Club to the Abpara Chowk (crossing). Under the tremendous pressure and militancy of the workers, the union leadership was forced to announce a countrywide lock-down on 3rd, 4th and 5th of March, 2015. It was made abundantly clear that if the process of privatisation is not immediately stopped, the lockout will continue along with an indefinite halt of the electricity supply. The demands put forward were:
The division of WAPDA in companies must be reversed with the restoration of WAPDA as a single industrial unit immediately.
Wind power, solar cell and other cheap methods of electricity production must be utilized immediately to overcome the shortfall in electricity production.
All workers must be guaranteed safety equipment and training to ensure the health and safety of workers.
All IPP’s (Independent Power Producers) and RPP’s (Rental Power Producers) must be nationalised immediately to stop the continued exploitation of the masses by high power tariff and to ensure continuous electricity supply.
The central leadership of the Hydro Union, gen sec. Khursheed Khan, chairman Abdul Latif Nazamani, Javed Baloch, Malik Fateh Khan along with Pakistan People’s Party leader Khursheed Khan also attended the rally. Workers from other industries, especially those threatened with immediate privatisation, e.g. the railways and PIA, were also in attendance.
PTUDC Rawalpindi/Islamabad intervened strongly with leaflets with a very positive response. Workers eagerly grabbed the leaflets unmasking the horrors of privatisation, the lies of capitalism along with solid demands and the way forward, 2000 of which were distributed.
Many young workers were engaged in discussions. The majority of the workers were adamant for industrial action, strongly expressing the need for concrete steps to be taken if WAPDA was to be saved from privatisation. Only a lock-down and stoppage of electricity production can help to safeguard against this fresh attack from the capitalists. We must use any and all means to stop this privatisation because if this state unit is privatised then all other state owned units will suffer the same fate. The present government is a government of the capitalists who are hell bent on looting and exploiting by piece meal privatisations and this must not be allowed.
This shows that the workers are not only consciously advanced but in a far more militant mood than the current leadership whose vacillation is causing anger and discontent among the rank and file workers.
The PTUDC supports all the current demands of the WAPDA workers with the position that this is a class struggle. The crisis of capitalism leaves no space for reforms. The only way forward is a revolutionary path. The path of socialist revolution.
At the above protes The PTUDC published and distributed the following leaflet against the privatization of the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA):
The capitalist system is making the workers pay for all its failures. The continued decline and shipwreck of the market economy and the infinite lust for profit have caused the capitalists to go into a mental state bordering on madness. Privatisation is the weapon whereby they can increase their profit and rate of profit. The stated aim of privatisation, which is relentlessly repeated, is nothing but lies and exaggerations. The main purpose is the mass lay offs whereby paving the way for the capitalists to plunder the public enterprises. Privatisation gives the capitalists the opportunity to establish a monopoly and increase the prices to suck the blood of the working class. The private sector does not pay heed to the so-called laws of the land.
Pakistan’s private sector is in fact the best example where working days of 12 to 18 hours instead of the official 8 hours is being observed without paying the overtime. There are neither weekly nor essential holidays as per the labour laws. None of the laws and regulations, i.e. gratuity, medical facility, home to workplace conveyance, work safety, special arrangement for working women, child labour etc. are being observed in the private sector. Dozens of workers die and are injured every day in factory disasters and none of them is reported in the media. Fire related and other deaths are on the order of the day in different industries. 40 million workers are subjected to forced labour in the private sector of Pakistan. The owners and their agents subject the workers to severe mistreatment and there is no one to stop them. Arbitrary layoffs and cuts in fixed wages are normal practices in the private sector. For workers it is a disaster and for the capitalists everything is for the best. In the event of privatisation, the workers’ deaths due to the absence of safety measures will increase massively.
The establishment of power and distribution companies in one of the most important institutions of WAPDA, was an important initiative in the way of privatisation which the then labour leadership ignored at the time. Previously, the May Day holiday was stripped away, to harm the workers and judge the reaction of their leadership. Additionally, curbs were imposed on the “labour activities” in institutions with one of the most organised labour forces.
The privatisation of the Kot Addu power plant was a severe blow to the working class. Workers had occupied the power plant and literally defeated the armed state institutions but later the “fifth columnists” connivingly turned this great victory into a defeat and disaster.
Now the privatisation of the remaining parts of WAPDA has been announced. The capitalist government of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) knows very well that more fortunes can be made from the “power sector” than from gold and diamond mines. The experience of the IPPs (Independent Power Plants) has already taught the capitalists how to sell expensively a cheap unit of electricity. The vultures in the PML (N) government are already hovering over the booty. When it comes to privatisation, all kinds of “Opposition” are ideologically on the same page with the Muslim League.
However, the Pakistan People’s Party also has a bleak past pertaining to IPPs. The then Muslim League leadership criticized them back then, but now they are pursuing the same policy to further their plunder and ravage the working class.
As we explained before the 29th May, 2014 referendum that upon taking charge of the government the “Sharif brothers” would indulge in the frenzy of the plunder of WAPDA. Now the same things are going to happen. Advertisements have been published in newspapers for the privatisation of some companies. The mission of this government is the rigorous implementation of capitalist policies which demands the privatization of the public enterprises including WAPDA that entails the downsizing, layoffs and the implementation of contract labour.
In this situation, the unity of the WAPDA workers has already been shattered by splitting up WAPDA into different companies. Strangled by imperialist domination, Pakistan has to bear the exploitation of the private power companies whose tough conditions demand the privatisation of the power sector to “alleviate load shading”. In the past, the workers of WAPDA had propelled their oscillating and reformist leadership to stand up against privatisation. There was a militant mood. If the leadership had played with emotions of the workers and betrayed the movement then they would have been stripped away. The WAPDA workers bravely fought and defeated the anti-worker privatisation scheme which is a shining example for the rest of the Pakistani workers to follow.
The ruling class is giving the impression to their imperialist masters that they are have the WAPDA labour leadership in confidence. But the WAPDA workers have to tear apart this conspiracy. It is the worker who fights and makes sacrifices. It is vital that their fate may not be decided by some invisible hands. Instead of relying on “committees” and “dialogue” the workers have to embark upon a movement with the slogan “Reverse the privatisation”.
In the same way the fraudulent idea of buying shares by workers must also be downrightly rejected. To persuade a worker, who hardly meets the needs of his family and can’t even buy a house for him/herself, into the hoax of buying shares or partnership is nothing but a criminal scheme to detract the workers from the struggle of anti-privatisation so that he/she ends up actually participating in the process of privatisation. This criminal idea has to be crushed through an ideological battle.
On 29th May, 2014 referendum, the workers gave a landslide victory to their leadership and obliged them to fight privatisation and safeguard the interests of the workers. Now the time has come to fulfill this duty. It is clear and has to be made clear to everyone that neither the WAPDA workers would accept the criminal policy of privatisation, nor the working class of Pakistan would remain silent over any anti-worker legislation.
There must not be any ambiguity regarding the demand of WAPDA workers that the children of WAPDA workers must be given priority for recruitment in the department. The electricity workers demand that in view of the prices of electricity, price hikes and inflation, wages must be increased four times, and the integrity of WAPDA be restored, the IPPs which is the main reason of power price hikes (pressurising by shutting down the power stations), power generation, distribution and all other sectors must be expropriated.
Instead of using oil, gas and coal, cheap electricity must be produced by using water, solar power and wind, thus reducing poverty in the country and also the pressure of load shedding and mass resentment against the WAPDA workers. Load shedding is caused by the private companies who wish to make money despite not producing electricity (because it is inscribed in the agreement with the IPPs that payment will be made according to the productive capacity irrespective of electricity consumption).
The truth is that the prices are increased on the orders of international financial institutions but the pent up anger of the masses is directed towards WAPDA workers who are tortured and their offices burned. This can only be stopped by cheap and continuous supply of electricity.
For a long time, the practice of stripping away the worker from the democratic process and electing “unopposed” leadership instead of open elections has given way to a pernicious bureaucratic tendency to get foothold. These “Yes men” groups cannot tolerate honest and farsighted workers. Positive criticism on all kinds of decisions and policies are blocked. The practice of “teaching lessons” to the critics has obliterated the difference between good and bad.
These are the reasons which have given rise to such reactionary elements who hail the current property relations as sacred against the Hydro Union which challenged and overthrew the Ayub dictatorship. During the struggle against privatisation, it is quite possible that these “yes men” groups will collide with the interests of the workers and start to support some “other kind of privatisation”. In that case the electricity workers will have to take the struggle forward more bravely and resolutely.
Privatisation is fatal and deadly for the workers and masses and the country. It must be stopped. The workers and the leadership of the oil and gas sector fought courageously against the privatisation of OGDCL. They were tortured and imprisoned but they set an example to the labour movement and the whole world.
The electricity workers have to forge an extensive alliance to fight privatisation. The privatisation of WAPDA will pave the way for the same fate of other public enterprises, but the struggle and success against its privatization will set an example and save other public enterprises. All workers, including those under the danger of privatization, and peasants must come forward in this class struggle and defeat the disgusting alliance of the ruling class.
1. The privatisation process of WAPDA must be reversed immediately.
2. Expropriate the IPPs.
3. All the companies of WAPDA must be merged to establish a single unit.
4. Electricity must be supplied at the rate of production cost.