Dechen Dolkar 

With most works of the Punatshangchhu-I Hydroelectric Project Authority (PHPA-I) completed, the project, known for delays and cost escalation, will lay off 282 contract employees soon.

The authority has around 800 employees.

The contract period for these employees was extended several times, the latest was until the end of July this year.

According to the manpower rationalisation report prepared by an external committee, 525 employees would be the optimal size for the project and 293 employees would be excess manpower in the project.

The report states that the project has 78 excess helpers both working at the construction sites and in offices. It is the highest excess manpower as compared to other departments. Similarly, the committee found an excess of 48 work supervisors, 32 support staff (peons), 28 computer operators, 20 sweepers, 14 lower division and upper division clerks, and 10 assistant engineers.

The external committee consisting of members from labour and economic affairs ministries, and Druk Green Power Corporation reviewed the manpower requirement in December 2021. The management received a report in May this year.

The PHPA-I office circular on August 7, stated that in keeping with the approved criteria for retrenchment, the list of employees to be retrenched has been prepared accordingly as part of the first-phase retrenchment.

The circular states that the list has been prepared primarily based on the employees’ annual confidential report (ARC) ratings for three consecutive years.

The PHPA-I management said that employees from almost all categories and from all departments are included in the retrenchment list in keeping with the manpower rationalization report.

According to the management,  the majority of the work was completed and some of the manpower has become redundant, thereby necessitating retrenchment.

Owing to the substantial completion of the works, the project management was directed in 2019 to monitor and evaluate human resources based on the succession plans in line with the Revised Cost Estimate (RCE) taking into consideration the works at hand.

However, the management said that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, employees were not retrenched on humanitarian grounds.

According to the management, 87.49 percent of overall physical work is completed, 69.87 percent of dam, 99.35 percent of powerhouse, 97.61 percent of electro-mechanical works and 99.49 percent of transmission lines are completed.

The project completed the head race tunnel in 2015.

Meanwhile, some of the employees who were retrenched were not happy with the process.

One of the retrenched employees of PHPA-I said that there are discrepancies in rationalizing the committee’s report and the retrenchment plan. “The management is retaining a few officials without reference to the rationalisation report and they are retrenching employees who are not listed in the committee report,” he said.

The management said that the selection process has been carried out in an objective, fair, and transparent manner primarily based on the performance ratings of the last three years. “There is no way the management can devise an unfair process when all employees worked till now as a single family.”

Retrenched employees will be entitled to payments in lieu of notice period in keeping with the service rules of PHPA-I. Additionally, they will also be entitled to regular terminal benefits as per service rules.

The committee recommended multitasking in order to optimize manpower and other resources. It is observed that some of the tasks can be performed easily by entrusting additional responsibilities, wherever the employees do not have adequate work in hand.

The report also recommended adopting cost-sharing mechanisms for common facilities maintained by PHPA-I and PHPA-II effecting the reduction of excess manpower.

The report also states that while there is excess manpower in most of the functional units, on the contrary, there are also few requirements in some offices. It recommended meeting the additional manpower requirements from the offices which have excess manpower through redeployment mechanisms.