Europe: Protesters picket Pakistan embassies in support of striking telecom workers

Members of the CWI in Austria handed in a letter of protest to the Pakistan Embassy, in Vienna, and the CWI held a protest at the Pakistan Embassy in New York.

Pictures

Yesterday (1 June), protest pickets and lobbies of Pakistani embassies and consulates across Europe sent a clear message to the regime of General Musharraf – No to privatisation plans for telecom!, Support telecom workers on strike!, End repression and harassment of strikers!, Withdraw plans to cut thousands of telecom jobs!

Protests lobbies took place in Austria, Britain, Ireland, Sweden and Germany, and other forms of protest were held in several other countries. Since the start of the telecom workers’ strike, on 26 May, messages of protest to the Pakistan regime have flooded in from around the world, from, for example, unions, youth organisations and individuals. Solidarity messages to the strikers have had a big effect in bolstering their morale and determination in the teeth of harassment and repression from the state.

Yesterday’s protesters vowed to keep up the pressure in support of the strikers. We present here a selection of reports of the pickets and photographs.

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Belgium

Yesterday members of the LSP, the CWI section in Brussel, picketed the Pakistani Embassy. The aim of the picket was to put pressure on the Pakistani government and the management of the telecom company PCTL. The strike has been solid for the last 6 days. Repression from the government has met with fierce resistance at mass meetings and mass pickets. The government was forced to release three strike leaders after it had arrested and detained them for 5 hours. The company management even proposed important concessions to the trade union but the workers fear that this is just a trick that would allow them to privatise the company. Members of LSP at the lobby publicised and supported the demand of the strikers that the strike should be continued until the government gives a guarantee that the planned privatisation is withdrawn.

Britain

"Telecom sell-offs – No Way! Public services – Here to stay!"

The quiet square where the Pakistani High Commission is situated in London had its peace shattered by a small but loud group of protestors yesterday. Despite the short notice, a group, including trade union representatives and students, lobbied in solidarity with the trade unions taking strike action against the privatisation of the telecom industry in Pakistan.

National Union of Teachers (NUT) rep, Martin Powell-Davis, spoke about the effects of privatisation, both here in Britain and around the world. He brought his trade union banner and a message of solidarity from the members of his union. He spoke on behalf of trade unionists and workers in Britain who have seen their pay and conditions under attack and know bitterly the necessity of a fight-back against privatisation.

Many people on their way in and out of the Embassy building stopped to ask what it was we were protesting about. On hearing about developments in Pakistan they signed our petitions in support and agreed with our demands for a halt to privatisation and an end to victimisation of trade unionists.

Having delivered a letter explaining our protest and handed out copies to all the passers-by we ended the protest with the promise that we will return with our numbers multiplied should our demands not be met and should any further action be taken against the Telecom workers and their union leaders.

Germany

Protest action was taken in front of the Pakistan Embassy in Berlin, reported Michael Koschitzki, from the SAV (CWI). We handed in a protest letter waved placards demanding: ‘Stop privatisation! Solidarity with the PCTL-Workers!’

An Embassy spokesperson told us he did not know about the strike, but he still defended the privatisation of the telecommunication sector.

We hope this solidarity action will give the striking telecom workers confidence in their struggle.

Ireland

Members of the Socialist Party and Socialist Youth protested outside the Pakistan Consulate, in Dublin. The offices are in the Irish Financial Centre, which meant the protest was high profile and also highly embarrassing for the Pakistani regime. Security guards reacted aggressively to the peaceful protest and threatened to call the police. Protesters waved placards in support of the telecom strikers, used a megaphone, and handed in a letter of protest to a Consulate representative.

Sri Lanka

On 2 June, protesters handed in letters to the Pakistan Embassy, in Colombo, supporting the telecom workers. The organisations represented were, the United Socialist Party (USP – CWI in Sri Lanka), a health workers’ union, the Government Press Union and the Socialist Plantation Workers’ Union. They stated: "This struggle of telecom employees in Pakistan is a very important struggle for us. This is because in Sri Lanka we find the same sort of struggles against privatisation – in the petroleum industry, electricity, railways and ports. So we need to mobilise in solidarity to face up to the privatisation forces being pushed by the World Bank, the IMF and other imperialist agencies (and implemented by all the capitalist governments in the region).

We strongly condemn any suppressive acts by the police and armed forces against the strikers. We pledge our fullest support and solidarity to the telecomm workers’ struggle.

For a complete victory and an end to all privatisation plans!

We will campaign and give the maximum publicity to the telecom workers’ struggle.

Red salute of solidarity!

Sweden

"Stop repression against strikers!"

"Halt the privatisations – save the jobs and the future for telecom workers in Pakistan," "Stop repression against striking workers". These slogans echoed outside the Pakistani embassy in Stockholm, Sweden, on Wednesday afternoon.

In this wealthy area, housing the upper class of Stockholm, our megaphone spread disturbing information. Pakistani Embassy staff, pedestrians, and car drivers listened to news about the strike in Pakistan and state repression against the strikers.

Escorted by two policemen, our delegation delivered protest letters to the Embassy’s First Secretary

One of the letters came from the Stockholm underground train drivers’ union, another from Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna’s (RS – the CWI) three city councillors in Umeå.

Two of us were invited into the embassy – Per-Åke Westerlund and Lina Thörnblom, the Chairs of RS and Elevkampanjen (International Socialist Resistance) respectively.

We met with the Charge d’Affairs, Dr. Muhemmed Aejaz, the highest ranking officer of the embassy.

"We understand your concern," Dr Aejaz declared. He also told us that the Minister of Labour in Pakistan had made a statement that he would protect the safety of the strikers. However, Dr Aejaz then continued by referring to the existence of al-Qaeda in Pakistan as a reason for detentions. We replied by underlining that al-Qaeda is totally opposed to trade unions and that the detentions we were concerned about were of well-known trade union leaders. The brief discussion ended by us stating that we will follow events closely and would come back later, if needed. Dr Aejaz handed over a document on privatisation and asked us to mail him any points on the effects of privatisation internationally.

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