Arrest of electricity workers condemned; Puducherry govt. appeals for an end to stir

Existing working conditions will be protected after privatisation, it says

October 03, 2022 07:20 pm | Updated 07:20 pm IST - PUDUCHERRY

Striking employees of the Puducherry Electricity Department staged a sit-in at the head office here on Monday and observed the day as ‘Black Day’ condemning the arrest of their colleagues and the government’s move to privatise power distribution in the Union Territory.

The government, meanwhile, appealed to electricity employees to withdraw their strike and resume duties while reassuring the workforce that the existing working conditions would be protected post-privatisation.

The employees have been on an indefinite strike from September 28 against calling tenders for 100% privatisation of the distribution business in the Union Territory. Though the government held discussions with the striking employees, no headway was made.

Shailendra Dubey, chairman, All India Power Engineers’ Federation, said the employees of the electricity department were holding peaceful protests. But the police tried to enter the head office and arrest the office-bearers of the Joint Action Committee following which over 500 employees courted arrest.

He demanded that the arrested employees be immediately released. Employees and engineers of various power utilities across the country are requested to observe Black Day protest in support of the striking workers, he added.

Representatives of various power utilities in neighbouring States also participated in the protest in Puducherry and expressed their solidarity with the striking employees.

Meanwhile, a press note from T. Arun, Power Secretary, said the Government of Puducherry had proposed to privatise the power distribution functions of the Electricity Department in order to increase efficiency and consumer satisfaction.

“The Section 133 of Electricity Act 2003, ensures all safe guards such that the terms and conditions on the transfer shall not in any way be less favourable than those which prevails. As such, the employees are assured that there would not be any shortfall in their salary and they can draw their monthly salary regularly, as is being paid at present by the government,” the press note said.

The indefinite strike led by the Privatisation Protest Committee comprising employees of the Electricity Department since September 28 had affected normal life of the people. Moreover, in spite of the assurance during the meeting held under the Chairmanship of the Power Secretary on September 28 and 29 that the power supply would not be affected due to the strike, some miscreants among the employees had sabotaged the functioning of all the three 230 KV Sub-stations and also various overhead lines, which created failure of power supply to the entire Puducherry region on October 1, the press note said.

Stating that these acts have been condemned from all quarters and the same is punishable under law, the government urged employees to end the stir and return to their normal duties immediately, failing which necessary action will be taken as per rules.

The Electricity Department being a Public Utility Service Department, the employees cannot be allowed to resort to a strike that affected the public, and they are duty bound to honour their designated duties. Any strike by the Electricity Department employees is illegal under Section 3 (q) of the Industrial Dispute Act, 1947 and liable for action as per the said rules. The period of strike will be considered as break in their service, the government said.

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