BWI To IFC: Explain mass termination at Pakistani hydropower project

BWI asked the International Finance Corporation (IFC) on 15 December to explain the mass termination of 2,410 workers at the Karot Hydropower Project, a mega infrastructure project that it is financing in Pakistan. The global union also called on the IFC to provide compensation to the affected workers, saying that the mass layoff left the workers in an “incredibly vulnerable situation,” especially in the time of COVID-19.

According to the Pakistan Federation of Building and Wood Workers (PFBWW), the said workers were forcibly asked to leave their worksite and take all their personal belongings without any information about the future of the project.

BWI and PFBWW said that the mass termination is a blatant violation of workers’ rights and IFC principles. They said that the local union and even the labour department did not receive any explanation for the mass layoff other than the contractor reporting that 25 Chinese managers have “fallen ill with COVID-19.” 

Last 6 July, it was reported that BWI and PFBWW have filed a joint complaint before the IFC’s Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman (CAO) citing the gross violation of workers’ rights of 3,000 workers at the IFC-financed Karot Hydropower Project. While the process is under investigation, all “non-essential workers” were reportedly terminated without receiving their legal termination benefits. They were instead been offered “bonuses” in exchange for their voluntary resignations. 

PFBWW General Secretary Aslam Adil expressed his serious concerns over the illegal action of the contractor at the Karot project. “We have been actively organising mega-infrastructure projects in Pakistan and consistently raising and addressing workers’ issues by engaging the management through dialogues and judicial interventions, and strengthening our site-level union. This is why this development is highly problematic as stakeholders have not been part in the making of a decision that left thousands of workers in an extremely vulnerable position, with their rights unmistakably disrespected,” he said. 


Adil said that their union has demanded the Karot project management to issue a thorough explanation behind the abrupt and arbitrary termination of employment contracts, ensure that due process is thoroughly observed and involve workers in important decision-making processes. 


The Karot Hydropower Project covers the construction of a 720 MW run-of-the-river hydro-power plant, including a 95.5 m high dam and a 27 km long reservoir on the Jhelum River. Karot is owned mainly by the China Three Gorges South Asia Investment Limited (CSAIL), which was established by the China Three Gorges Corporation (CTGC). 

At the time of the lease’s signing, Karot Hydro was IFC’s largest hydroelectric power project. It represented its first significant collaboration with the China Export-Import Bank, China Development Bank, and the Silk Road Fund. 

The IFC is a member of the World Bank Group.