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Pakistan: IUF May Day 2007 Actions

Women workers lead the Pearl Continental Hotel Workers Solidarity May Day Rally, Karachi, 30 April 2007.

For May Day 2007, IUF affiliated and fraternal unions in Pakistan organised their own independent activities and also participated in activities with other independent unions. In Karachi, Multan and Rahim Yar Khan, union rallies produced the first demonstration directly in front of the Karachi Pearl Continental Hotel, the first rally (led by women) in Multan's industrial district and a joint May Day rally of Unilever and Coca-Cola unions in Rahim Yar Khan. Reports prepared by the IUF Pakistan Outreach Office follow.

Karachi: For the First Time May Day Rally Delivers Solidarity to the Front Door of the Pearl Continental Hotel

The Pearl Continental Hotel Workers’ Solidarity Committee organised a torch rally on 30 April 2007 from Karachi Press Club to PIDC House. PIDC House was chosen because it is situated in front of the Pearl Continental (PC) Hotel and thus allowed the rally to pass the Hotel. Although there were many activities in Karachi on 30 April, the PC rally was unique. Mobilization work bean two weeks ago. Many political and social organisations, trade unions, NGOs and professional organisations were visited by PC solidarity committee members. A poster was published and a hand bill was widely distributed in the city. The media committee visited print and electronic media representatives.

At 7pm on 30 April hundreds of workers and people from all walks of life gathered at the Karachi Press Club. The rally was completely peaceful. The management of the Pearl Continental Hotel asked the police and civil administration to either stop or change the route of the rally, but both police and civil administration refused. The police also provided security to the participants with two vehicles escorting the rally. When the rally reached the front of the PC Hotel, the participants stopped and shouted slogans. Workers from teh hotel came out and welcomed the rally. Many family members of the PC workers also attended the rally.

A representative delegation visited the Sindhi Chief Minister's residence and the Pearl Continental Hotel. The delegation presented resolutions to the Chief Minister and to Sadruddin Hashwani demanding the reinstatement of disimissed PC hotel workers and recognition of the PC Hotel Workers' Union.

At the end the rally representatives of numerous supporting organisations spoke and assured PC hotel workers of their full and continued support. Speakers demanded that the dismissed workers be reinstated immediately and that management should recognise the union and start negotiations immediately. Speakers also paid tribute to the union for its continuing struggle.

The rally achieved three main aims:

1. For the last five years the PC union jointly or independently has organised many activities including meetings, processions and rallies. These activities have been held in different parts of the city. However, this was first time a PC activity was successfully organised on the main street in front of the hotel. The area is generally blocked to any rallies. This success gave workers a great moral boost.

2. Previously all correspondence between union and management had taken place via fax or post. This was first time that a delegation was able to visit the hotel a meet the General Manager to hand over a communication.

3. The rally received widespread publicity through print and electronic media. Around 20 newspapers printed either pictures or news or both. The leading newspapers (Dawn, The News) printed the photographs on their front page. All television channels including the state owned Pakistan Television covered the rally in the national news.

Multan: Food Industry Women Workers Lead May Day Rally

The IUF-affiliated National Federation of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Workers jointly with the Working Women Federation organised a workers meeting in the industrial area of Multan to mark May Day. (Multan has a population of about 4 million people and is an industrial centre in the province of Punjab).

The meeting was attended by leaders and workers from different unions and women workers from the food industry (who are not in unions). It was first time in Multan that any activity was organized in the factory area on May Day. Although the factory area has many businesses, to date no May Day activities have occurred in this part of the city. The Women Workers Federation chose to organise the meeting at a place near to workers’ homes and workplaces.

Attendance at the May Day meeting was affected by the Punjab Chief Minister’s visit to Multan on 30 April, which included a public address. Government officers were instructed to make the Chief Minister’s event “successful”. They booked much of the city’s private transport for the meeting. The Department of Labour and Manpower asked factory managers to send workers to the Chief Minister’s speech and factory owners were given permission to keep factories open on May Day. The Labour Department un-officially gave an incentive to the factory owners and abolished the May Day holiday. The workers, especially in small establishments, were forced to work on May Day so they were unable to attend the celebrations and rallies on that day. Union leaders criticised the labour department’s attitude to allow factory owners to run their establishments on the national holiday.

Women workers at the meeting informed the participants that they were meant to be at their work but many women workers came to the meeting and participated in the rally. Multan is one of the hottest places in the country and May Day was celebrated in very hot weather: 42 degrees celsius. The women workers in their speeches noted they are not paid even minimum wages, un-paid overtime work is common in the food and beverages factories. A campaign has started for the registration of workers for social security. Women Workers Federation is holding meetings with women workers and educating them about their rights.

Solidarity messages from the IUF’s Ma Wei Pin (Asia/Pacific Regional Secretary) and Sarah Gardner (Asia/Pacific Women’s Officer) were shared with the participants.

The meeting was followed by a rally which was welcomed by many residents of the factory area. It was a new experience for both the participants and the residents.

Rahim Yar Khan: Food Unions Unity Grows

The IUF affiliated Unilever Employees Federation and Coca Cola Union organised a large rally in Rahim Yar Khan on May Day. Thousands of workers from the Unilever Factory and the Coca Cola factory participated in the rally. The rally started at the gate of Unilever factory. Despite the hot weather the workers walked three kilometers and finished at the office of the Unilever Federation where a meeting was held. The leaders of the Unilever Federation announced that they will join the National Federation of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Workers. They said that a national organisation is needed and without a national organisation it is difficult to secure workers’ rights. The leaders of Coca Cola Rahim Yar Khan Union welcome the decision of Unilever workers to join the NFFBTW.

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