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Karachi PC Hotel Workers to Management:
"If you won't recognise our union, we don't want your money"

Report from IUF Pakistan Office

Ghulam Mehboob, General Secretary of the PC Hotel Workers Union.
Members of the Karachi Pearl Continental (PC) Hotel Workers’ Union have refused to accept a wages arrears amount of 3,200 Rupees (US$50) which was offered by the luxury hotel's management.

Despite more than six years of continuous efforts by management to convince workers to abandon their union, workers have stood firm with their demand for recognition. Because of management's actions no collective agreement has been reached since 2001, which has meant workers have not received financial or non-financial benefits beyond what was operating at that time.

In May 2005 hotel management unilaterally increased basic pay of workers by 1,500 Rupees (US$24) per month. The management had hoped that through this tactic workers would cease to support the union. When workers maintained their support for the union, and management recognised its ploy had failed, the very next month (June 2005) management 'revised' the actual increase in basic pay to 300 Rupees (US$5) per month. After a number of months wage arrears were paid, but only on the basis of the smaller June 2005 figure; in 2006 union members lodged complaints against the revision with
the Commissioner Payment of Wages. More than 100 workers have prepared to file their claim.

On 25 March 2007 the management issued a notice stating that “there is no recognised union in the hotel" which is both untrue in law and in practice. In addition the note informed workers of management's "great generosity" with new changes to their income, which included merging the monthly 300 Rupees into basic pay, and from July 2007 adding a new cost of living allowance of 500 Rupees (US$8.25) per month.

Given these changes the management asked workers to collect arrears owing from the changes which amounted to 3,200 Rupees (US$50) and sign a letter stating that there are no outstanding amounts owed.

The management was thus trying to prevent the workers' claims at Payment of Wages court. Although management had set up a cashier in the cafeteria to encourage workers to take the money on offer, workers refused to collect the arrears.

On 5th April 2007 the hotel management organized a religious gathering in the hotel and invited all employees. The union demanded management withdraw the notice that states “there is no Collective Bargaining (recognised) Union in the hotel”. On management’s refusal union officers called on workers not to participate in the religious meeting, which they agreed to. At the time of the programme the hotel management came and asked workers to go to the programme. All the workers boycotted the religious programme and management failed to bring the workers in the programme.

The union members neither accepted the arrears nor attended religious meeting which is a big set back to the hotel management. It shows that neither money nor attempting to play with workers' beliefs will induce them to give up their rights to a trade union of their choice.

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