The union at the Suki Kinari hydro power construction project in Northern Pakistan has taken preliminary strike action, beginning on 17 October, demanding their employer implements minimum protections under the labour law and pay legal benefits for terminated workers. The strike follows a proposed meeting with management two days before when Labour Department officials – who had been pushing the company to sign an agreement for legal compliance – were prevented from entering the project area.
“This is the fourth major hydro project in the last few years where employers have been given a free rein to ignore the laws of this country,” said Pakistan Federation of Building and Wood Workers (PFBWW) General Secretary Aslam Adil. “Workers have had enough. They are demanding the Government take action to bring this company in line with the law and respect workers’ right to freedom of association.”
The union had been preparing for a strike on 21 October, however management’s refusal to allow Labour Department officials to enter raised major concerns and the meeting was called off. In response the company granted four days leave to most of the workers on the site and demanded workers evacuate their living quarters. Workers have agreed that they will not return to work on 21 October until the company is open for discussions.
Suki Kinari is an 870MW hydro project slated for completion in 2022, and is being built by China Gezhouba Group Corporation (CGGC). PFBWW previously organized the CGGC project Neelum Jhelum hydro power company, and in 2017 co-filed a complaint with the BWI to the ILO Committee of Freedom of Association regarding military intervention in the collective bargaining process, failure to implement the terms of a collective agreement and arbitrary termination of union members. The project is being financed by the Export-Import Bank of China and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China under a loan agreement with the Government of Pakistan.
“It appears that Chinese construction companies in Pakistan are being given too much freedom to set employment conditions below the minimum legal standards”, said BWI Regional Representative Apolinar Tolentino. “This is not good enough. We demand that CGGC immediately joins PFBWWW at the bargaining to negotiate a resolution to this situation before it spirals out of control.”
Lahore PR – Hundreds of drawing staff employed in Wapda held a national conference today at Bakhtiar Labour Hall, Lahore under the aegis of All Pakistan Wapda Hydro Electric Workers Union CBA and demanded to raise the pay scales of drawing staff commensurate with price hike alike other categories of staff ministerial, line and grid jobs. Union leaders also demanded to raise avenue of promotion for those had not been promoted for longer year. Thereafter, the workers held protest rally in support of their demands and condemned the proposed privatisation of LESCO, IESCO and Guddu thermal power house.
KARACHI – On the occasion of the International Day of Home-based Workers, a large number of home-based workers staged a big rally in Karachi on Monday and demanded of the Sindh government to issue early notification of rules and procedures of Sindh Home-based Workers Act so that the law could be practically implemente The rally staged from Fuwara Chowk marched to the Karachi Press Club (KPC), led by HBWWF central general secretary Zehra Khan. Carrying flags, banners and placards, they chanted slogans for their rights.
Addressing the rally, Zehra Khan said the home-based women workers of the country, especially Sindh province, as a result of their untiring struggle of 10 years, had got accepted their legal status, which was a historic milestone not for the home-based workers of this country but also for this region. She said HBWWF had been raising voice for last three decades for women workers, including peasant women of Okara, leady health workers, lady teachers and nurses. She said it had waged a historical struggle and strengthened the labor movement in Pakistan, resulting in not only improving the lot of home-based workers but also changing the thought process in the society.
National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) Nasir Mansoor said that the struggle of women home-based workers was heroic and historic and now factory laborers also consulted with them for forming trade union. He said it was heartening that now a large number of home-based workers were forming their unions and becoming a strong voice against atrocities of capitalism.
The rally demanded that the government of Sindh should make rules of the Home-based Workers Act and issue its notification and practically implement the law.
Although migrant workers were not asked to leave, the economic impact of the abrogation has seen work dry up for many workers, while others are worried about the possible escalation of violence – especially as at least 38,000 Indian troops have been sent in to join the existing 500,000 Indian soldiers and police officers already installed to ‘keep the peace’.
The BBC reports that the lock-down has cost Kashmir’s economy more than US$1.4 billion, with tens of thousands of jobs having been lost. But the tourism industry, which forms 6.8 per cent of Kashmir’s GDP and employs an estimated two million people in the region, has been dealt a crippling blow in the middle of peak season. Every other sector is also sustaining heavy losses, says Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad, president of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI): “We don’t see any hope in the near to medium term”.
Althougha limited number of mobile phone services were restored last week, there has been a communications blackout since 5 August, with telephone networks and the internet cut off. The government said this was done to stop false rumours from circulating, although Kashmiris say it is an attempt to prevent any organised mobilisation from taking place. Public gatherings have been banned, and hundreds of political and civil society leaders have been detained. In South Kashmir villages, there have been reports of torture and arbitrary arrests by Indian security personnel.
Abdur Rashid Dar steps forward to greet passersby on the road that passes the famous Dal Lake in Srinagar, the largest city and summer capital of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. The owner of a shikarah (a wooden, gondola-like boat), he tells potential customers: “I will charge you just 200 rupees (approximately US$2.80) for a one-hour ride”. Normally, the going rate is Rs600 (approximately US$8.45).
Nestled in the Himalayas, Srinagar is a popular destination for Indian and foreign tourists between April and October, when ‘India’s Alps’ are at their most beautiful. But not this year. “There are no tourists in Kashmir Valley,” says Dar. Around 600 shikarahs have been moored while over 900 houseboats lie silent and empty on the other side of the lake. “We haven’t earned anything for the past two months. There is no hope for the future”.
Tourists fled Kashmir on 3 August, two days before the New Delhi government unilaterally revoked Article 370 which granted Kashmir autonomy within the Indian Union, plunging the disputed region into complete turmoil. For the first time since conflict broke out between India and Pakistan over Kashmir in 1947 (Jammu, the Hindu majority part of the state, has been largely unaffected), more than 340,000 tourists (including an estimated 200,000 Hindus on the annual Amarnath Yatra pilgrimage) were ordered by the government to leave India’s only Muslim-majority state within 24 hours due to concerns over “terror threats”.