Kashmir: Public sector workers strike for wage increase

Public sector workers in Pakistani Occupied Kashmir and Pakistan went on strike as part of the second leg of their protests on 6th May.

The strike was organised by the All Pakistan Clerks Association. The POK branch of APCA organised protests in all main district headquarters to highlight their demands, which include 100% rise in salaries, increase in subsidies for medical costs and house rent and the scrapping of the anti-worker laws including Special Powers Act.

Public sector workers from different government departments such as health, education, electricity, and local council came out on strike. Hundreds of workers attended rallies, particularly in capital Muzaffarabad and Mirpur division, where government departments were severely affected. Workers shouted slogans against the Musharraf regime‘s and that of Muslim Conference government’s in Pakistani Occupied Kashmir including the Special Power Act

But unfortunately, the right wing trade union leadership failed to mobilise and properly communicates with rank and file members to make sure that strike was effective.

The district and central leadership were criticised by rank and file members particularly from health and local council departments for the lack of sufficient campaigning and organising for the protests. Unfortunately the leadership of the union did not inform large sections of the workforce in different departments about the strike and demonstrations. There were many workers who were disgusted when they learnt that the main union leaders were not present for the protests. As a result management used this as an opportunity to attempt to demoralise the striking workers.

The growing day-to-day problems faced by workers and continued development in anti-workers laws such as the Special Powers Act, privatisation, down sizing has shown workers that their leaders are incapable of solving their problems.

A health worker said that the Special Powers Act was a "naked sword" over the heads of the public sector. Keen interest was shown by workers when CWI supporters raised ideas such as the importance of building solidarity amongst workers from different departments. Supporters of CWI and members of NAP and NSF had their message of support for the public sector workers printed in local newspapers. In the next few days public sector workers have organised a country wide protest including sections of teachers to press for their demands. These are:

  • 100% rise in salaries of workers linked with inflation
  • No to anti-workers laws, scrape Special Power Act.
  • Increase medical and house rent allowance.
  • No to privatisation of public service including health, education, basic services

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May 2004
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