Asian Food Worker Frontpage
Management Orders Mill Union to Dissolve the Day After Joining National Sugar Industry Federation

Abdus Salam Memon, General Secretary of the Army Welfare Sugar Mill Workers' Union, speaking at the founding convention of the Pakistan Sugar Mills Workers' Federation in Karachi on 18th May 2003, where he was subsequently elected as National General Secretary.
Barely a day after the inaugural congress of the Pakistan Sugar Mill Workers' Federation (PSMWF), one of the founding members, the Army Welfare Sugar Mills Workers' Union (AWSMWU), has been told to dissolve by the management.

Abdus Salam Memon, General Secretary AWSMWU, was elected as Secretary General of PSMWF on 18th May 2003 at the first National Convention. Returning to his work place on the evening of the 18th he received a warm welcome from fellow workers.

On Monday, 19th May, workers of the factory were congratulating him when the management called the union office bearers to the office of the acting general manager, Colonel (retired) Zahinullah Khan. The acting general manager showed the union officer bearers a confidential letter from the Director of Farms, Head Office, Army Welfare Trust (AWT), in which the director noted that the Army Welfare Sugar Mill was the only enterprise of AWT in which a union existed. The letter further noted that the sugar mill is running at a loss yet the union has continued to serve a charter of demands. Because of this, the letter stated, trade union activities in the factory cannot continue and the union should be abolished immediately.

After finishing reading the letter, the acting general manager ordered the union to cease its activities and close down the union office. He said that if the union will not stop its activities, he would forcibly do it. The union officers could not accept the legitimacy of the order and stated that as workers have formed the union, no one has the right to abolish it.

The acting general manager convened a meeting of factory managers and related the order from the head office of AWT. He instructed the managers not to have any relations with the union and forbade any communication with union officers.

Summary of protest telegram sent to the Governor of Sindh, the Chief Minister of Sindh and the Provincial Minister of Labour, Sindh.

The head office of the Army Welfare Trust has issued an order to the management of Army Welfare Sugar Mills, Badin, in which the management is directed to cease recognising the trade union at the mill, which has existed for twenty years, and to forcibly stop the unions activities.

This action of Army Welfare Trust is against the law, the Constitution of Pakistan, International Labour Organisation Conventions and the fundamental rights of workers. It is also against the May Day message of the President and Prime Minister of Pakistan. This action creates unrest among the workers and shall be treated as unfair labour practice under section 63 of the Industrial Relations Ordinance of 2002.

We request your intervention to order the management of Army Welfare Trust to comply with the law, ILO Conventions and Constitution of Pakistan and to respect the fundamental rights of the workers.

General Secretary
Army Welfare Sugar Mill Workers' Union, Badin, Pakistan
The union officers immediately informed the membership in a general body meeting. Workers showed their frustration and annoyance and started chanting against the mill management. Many could not understand the sudden change in attitude, as the union had existed since 1983, when the mill began operations, and the union has had long-standing collective bargaining status.

Since the 19th of May, workers have been holding meetings twice a day at the entrance gate of the factory, in the morning at the start of work and in the evening at the close of work. The union held a press conference at Badin City and condemned the directive of the mill management. The union sent protest telegrams (box, at right) to the Governor of Sindh, the Chief Minister of Sindh and the Provincial Minister of Labour, Sindh. The telegram was forwarded to the President of Pakistan as he is also Chief of Army, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, the Director for ILO in Pakistan and the Federal Minister of Labour.

Union members are contacting local labour organisations, citizen committees and councilors of local bodies. Union members took an oath in the general body meeting of the 19th not to accept the decision of the management and to struggle for their trade union and collective bargaining rights. Management has registered an internal complaint against the President of AWSMWU, Mohammad Iqbal Baryar, and the Senior Vice President, Zaiwar Khan, and constituted an internal inquiry board. The union believes these are steps towards an attempt to dismiss the union officers and pressure the workers to withdraw their charter of demands submitted in 2002.

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