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Pakistan: APTMA Threatens Indefinite Textile Sector Strike Over Energy Crisis

Pakistan’s ongoing electricity and gas load shedding crisis could soon come to a head if the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) keeps good on its threat to strike indefinitely in protest against the problem.

Under the present gas supply schedule, gas is being diverted from textile mills to captive power plants resulting in 10-hour shutdowns at the mills.

At an emergency meeting last week, APTMA Punjab authorized its leadership to discuss closing the mills entirely in a stance against the load shedding. APTMA Punjab Chairman SM Tanveer said the organization would make a final decision on an indefinite strike following a meeting with government officials in Islamabad.

“The Punjab-based textile industry is on the verge of collapse as textile exports have already decreased $500 million in the last two months. The members at the meeting are annoyed over unavailability and unaffordability of energy, causing the mills to close down across the province,” Tanveer told Pakistan’s The Express Tribune.

According to Pakistan’s Business Recorder, an APTMA member said the sudden and recurrent load shedding is wreaking havoc on factories. For example, he explained, it takes two hours to heat the boilers that treat the cloth, so a 10-hour power outage leaves the factory idle for at least 12 hours.

APTMA has urged the Pakistan government to ensure uninterrupted electricity for 16 hours a day and gas for 8 hours a day at the Punjab textile mills, where 70 percent of the country’s textile industry is based, and appealed to the leaders to save the industry from collapse.

Member mills were also in attendance at the meeting, and reportedly told APTMA that if the energy crisis persists, they will not be able to purchase cotton crop, which has already arrived in the country’s markets.

Pakistan’s industry has already suffered as a result of the electricity crisis, with the struggle harming the investment climate and leaving textile sector growth stagnant at around 6-7 percent. For the period from July 2013 to May 2014, Pakistan’s textile exports increased 5.96% to $12.6 billion, up from the previous period’s $11.916 billion.

“About 10 million direct and indirect workers are associated with the textile industry. Their livelihood as well as that of farmers is at stake. Laying off workers during Ramazan will not be a wise decision, so we will try one more time to negotiate with the government on energy availability and affordability,” Tanveer told The Express Tribune.