Ireland: Pakistan telecom workers’ struggle raised in Irish parliament

Socialist MP, Joe Higgins, quizzes Irish Prime Minister

The following exchange between Joe Higgins, TD (Socialist Party (CWI) member of the Irish Parliament – Dáil Éireann), and Bertie Ahern, the Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), on the issue of the recent strike by telecom workers in Pakistan fighting privatization, took place on 21 June.

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Pakistan telecom workers’ struggle raised in Irish parliament

Dáil Éireann, Taoiseach’s Questions, 21st June 2005

Joe Higgins (Socialist Party)

The Taoiseach stated in the House, when looking forward to the summit, that external affairs would be on the agenda. I asked him through correspondence to raise the freezing of further significant monetary aid to the Pakistani Government in view of the arrest of hundreds of trade unionists – members of the telecommunications union – who were fighting privatisation in that country. Did the Taoiseach have an opportunity to raise this matter?

The Taoiseach

The Pakistani authorities are reported to have on 13 June detained approximately 300 staff of a Pakistani owned telecommunications company following strike threats. I understand the strike was sparked by the announcement that the Pakistani Government, which owns 88% of the company, planned to sell 26% of the company, a move which trade unions fear will result in large scale job losses in Pakistan. Tensions were reportedly high among the approximately 65,000 people who currently work with the company. After ten days of the strike at the beginning of June, the Pakistani Government and the trade union action committee signed an agreement and believed the matter was completed. However, recent reports indicate that the Pakistani Government has gone ahead and sold the 26% share of the telecommunications company to a telecommunications company in the United Arab Emirates.

I took up the matter. Acting on our request, the Heads of Mission in Islamabad have agreed to raise the issue with the Pakistani authorities during the biannual human rights démarche that will take place in the coming days.

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