K-Electric staffer tests positive for coronavirus


A supervisor at the K-Electric has tested positive for the novel coronavirus and has been shifted to the quarantine centre at Karachi’s Expo Centre.

The staffer, who worked for a third-party contractor of the power
distributor, was part of a maintenance unit in Karachi’s Defence locality.

He was taken into custody by a team of health and security
officials who raided the KE’s IBC in the area.

Three other employees, who were part of the same maintenance
unit, were also taken for tests. They were released after having tested
negative.

The case has raised concerns regarding the welfare of
hundreds of maintenance teams deployed in Karachi without any protective gear,
at a time when the number of coronavirus cases is rising in the city.

The third-party vendor system, introduced after KE’s
acquisition by its current owner Abraaj Group, has previously come under
criticism because of the poor working conditions, particularly the lack of
protective equipment for maintenance staff dealing with high-voltage currents
without any health insurance.

The gravity of the situation can be understood from the
pressure on the power distributor to maintain supply in residential areas with
people confined to their homes due to the pandemic.

“We have been struggling to get the rights for our workforce
for the last decade,” said Muhammad Akhlaque, a representative of the KE labour
union.

The power distribution company was using the third-party
vendor system as it didn’t want to give rights to its workforce, he said.

“It was the same reason that the current management
retrenched thousands of technical and maintenance staff 10 years ago,” Akhlaque
said.

He demanded immediate “termination of the third-party
system to ensure labour rights”.

The KE confirmed that an employee associated with a third-party
contractor had tested positive for the virus.

All support was being extended to the staffer and his
family, KE spokesperson Noor Afshan said.

“KE has also arranged testing for all who interacted with
the individual concerned,” she said.

The spokesperson said that all those who interacted with the
infected staffer had been isolated and their premises disinfected.



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