Despite continuing intimidation and threats, Karachi Pearl Continental Hotel Union rallies for justice on Eid-ul-Fitre

Ghulam Mehboob (standing, second left) addresses Pearl Continental Hotel Workers rally on Eid-ul-Fitre, Karachi, 14 October 2007.
Pearl Continental (PC) Hotel Workers in Karachi celebrated their sixth consecutive Eid-ul-Fitre with a rally for justice. However, this year, for the very first time the rally was held in front of the hotel. Children and family members joined workers at the protest. PC hotel workers on duty also joined the protest when they saw a large number of victimised workers gathered near the hotel. The PC Hotel Workers Solidarity Committee made an appeal to the civil society organisations to join the protest. The Committee was encouraged to see wide participation of fraternal trade unions and other civil society organisations’ representatives.

Eid-ul-Fitre is one of the most important festivals of the year, and to organise a rally is a not an easy task. “It is the seriousness and sincerity of the leaders and members of the union with their cause that encouraged me to join the protest”, said Jaffer Khan, Deputy Secretary General of Muttahida Labour Federation who came from the other part of the city.

“We are ready to face any unfair treatment from hotel management because we are struggling for a noble cause”, said Mir Hassan, bell man of the PC Hotel who is an active member and joined protest when he saw people had gathered outside the hotel. “We are thankful to our members who are successfully running the campaign for the reinstatement of their colleagues and for the recognition of trade union rights in the hotel”‘ said Ghulam Mehboob in his speech.

Ghulam Mehboob, general secretary of the IUF-affiliated Pakistan Hotel and Allied Workers’ Federation, is a former PC Hotel union leader and worker who was unjustly dismissed in 2001 and spent three months in jail on false charges concocted by management. Since that time he has been part of the ongoing campaign for trade union rights at the Karachi PC hotel. He continues to face threats due to his involvement in the campaign: in early October a car which had been trailing him attempted to run him off the road while he was riding his motorcycle.

Ghulam Mehboob announced in 2006 that henceforth protests would be held at the hotel. On 30th April for the first time in six years struggle, the protesters marched towards the hotel and on this Eid occasion a very prestigious rally was held at the hotel.

Hotel management were said to be angered while watching the protest and sought to have the police stop the event. After talking with the rally organisers the police chose not to stop the protest and it continued.In the days prior to the Eid rally the union distributed thousands of fliers in the areas around the hotel. Just before the rally, the director of the labour office informed union representatives that hotel management would be willing to negotiate, but postponement of the Eid protest is pre-requisite for the negotiations.

Ghulam Mehboob noted, “our union is ready to negotiate, but we will not postpone our rallies and activities until the hotel agrees to direct negotiations through official invitations.”

“We will continue to build our movement for workers’ justice” Ghulam informed the workers who joined the rally from the hotel. And the management was not able to stop those workers who came out of the hotel to join protest.

“We are struggling since last six years and we are able to continue our struggle even for next sixty years,” said Ghulam in his message to the hotel management. “Yes these workers could run their campaign even for next sixty years,” said a veteran trade unionist, “because they are sincere with their cause and they are the hope for the trade union movement in Pakistan.”

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