Pakistan: Government crackdown on telecom strike

Report from Daily Times Pakistan. Appeal letter. Press release.

Article from Daily Times Pakistan on government crackdown on telecommunications strike

13 June 2005

Trade Union Rights Campaign – Pakistan (turc-p) Appeal Letter and Press Release.

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Government crackdown on telecom strike

317 PTCL workers held in crackdown

  • Union claims damaging Quetta’s fibre optic link
  • Gives government 24 hours to withdraw privatisation plan and release employees

Staff Report

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) Employees Union claimed that authorities had arrested 317 workers and the union had damaged the fibre-optic cable linking Quetta with other parts of the country.

At a press conference in Karachi, the PTCL Union Action Committee’s central leader Haji Khan Bhatti gave the government a 24-hour ultimatum to withdraw its proposal to privatise the company and release all arrested employees.

Bhatti reiterated that the communication system would be suspended if the union’s demands were not met. He said the union had set June 15 as the deadline to jam the system against the proposed privatisation, but the plan had been rescheduled now that its leaders and workers had been arrested.

The union leader said that 317 workers had been arrested throughout the country and the police had raided his and other leaders’ houses. He warned the parties interested in buying the company against participating in bidding, saying, "The workers will stop them."

Talking to Daily Times, union leader Malik Maqbool said the police had arrested relatives of union leaders it could not find. He said the union had set June 15 as the deadline to jam the telecommunication system, but the crackdown had forced workers to damage the fibre optic cable in Mastung, Quetta.

"We know the system’s vulnerable points and even if we do not go near the installations, we can still damage fibre-optic and satellite links," said Maqbool, adding that once the links were damaged, the company would come to a standstill.

Meanwhile, PTCL president Junaid Khan announced a Rs 5 billion package including 10 percent shares of the 26 percent of the company to its employees at a discount to be implemented from the July 1.

Khan said full job security would be provided to employees in the new package, adding that the new administration would not sack any employee in two years and if an employee wanted retire, he would be allowed 140 days’ compensation.

The PTCL president said workers were not being stopped from performing their professional duties and security forces had been deployed to protect the installations. He rejected Maj Gen Shaukat Sultan’s claim that the Signal Corps had taken control of PTCL operations, adding that PTCL employees were looking after the company’s operations.

However, Lt Col Idrees Malik said the Signal Corps’ troops were running 52 telephone exchanges and others were deployed for security.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao warned the protesting workers could be charged under anti-terrorism laws if they "tried to incite violence." He didn’t elaborate on why those laws would be applicable.

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June 2005