Asian Food Worker Frontpage

Damocles' Sword Removed:
Important Court Victory for Pearl Continental Hotel Union

Report from IUF Pakistan Office

Following a long period, the threat of official cancellation of the registration of the Pearl Continental Hotel Union has finally been removed.

In 2001 the hotel management at Karachi's luxury Pearl Continental Hotel decided to crush the union. Aside from dismissing union officers and active union members, the management and owners sought to crush the union through the courts by attempting to cancel the registration of the union.

In 2002 hotel management filed a complaint with the labour directorate accusing the union of acts of in-discipline, go-slow and coming to work late. The management requested the cancellation of the union's registration. Under the law the registrar has to go to the labour court to get permission for the cancellation of the registration.

In this case the registrar, without holding any enquiry, without issuing any show cause notice to the union and without fulfilling the legal requirements, filed a case in the labour court seeking permission for the cancellation of the union's registration. Although the matter should have been between the union and the registrar, Pearl Continental hotel management applied to be co-complainants. The labour court accepted the management's application, thus nullifying any pretense that the labour registrar would act with independence. The union challenged the labour court's decision permitting management to be a co-complainant in Sindh High Court. Later the labour court declined the application of registrar seeking the permission to cancel the registration of the union.

The hotel management as co-complainant challenged the labour court's decision in the high court. The Sindh High Court heard the two applications jointly and set aside both orders. The Sindh High Court remanded the case to the labour court with the direction to proceed with the case afresh from the stage of filing of the complaint and also held that the complaint shall be treated between the registrar and the union.

The labour court again started the proceedings and the name of the hotel management was removed from the title of the complainant. The union again approached the labour director to withdraw the petition. After a long negotiation with the union the Labour Director wrote a letter to the labour court withdrawing the charges against the union. The labour director asked the assistant director to submit this letter to the court the following day. The next day when union reached the court, they found other labour director officers at the court who refused to submit the letter of the Labour Director.

Instead these officers requested the court to adjourn the case. The union made an objection that the Labour Director had written an application to withdraw the case but his subordinates did not submit the application. The Labour Court adjourned the case. Later the joint director told the union that the Minister of Labour directed him not to submit the application in labour court.

The union started a campaign criticizing the labour department and the labour minister. This created tremendous pressure and the representative of labour directorate gradually stopped appearing before the court. The labour court gave many chances to Labour Director to appear before the court but he did not. The labour court on 18th May 2006 disposed off the application of registrar of trade unions seeking to cancel the registration of the union. In the judgment it is written:

"the person making complaint has not come before this court to establish the allegation in support of the complaint despite given many chances by this court. It also shows that he has no interest therein. The record shows that no enquiry was made by the complainant before filing of the present complaint and the complaint is based on the bare allegation of the employer who has no locus standi in view of the above order of the Honorable High Court of Sindh."

"In view of the above facts and circumstances it is clear that the complainant has failed to prove his allegation therefore, the accused is entitled to acquitted U/S 249-A, Cr. P.C (Criminal Panel Code)"

This decision places the union in a strong position legally. Pearl Continental Management have continuously argued that the cancellation of the union's registration was reason enough to ignore the union and its campaign. This argument has disappeared. The directorate of labour acknowledged the union as collective bargaining agent. The Karachi Pearl Continental Hotel Workers Union will now act strongly not only in court and in the labour department but also in public.