Pakistan: Thousands of power loom workers show their anger

Implement the agreement or face strike action!

Thousands of power loom (textile) workers recently marched through the main streets of Faisalabad (the third largest city of Pakistan and center of textile industry). The protesting workers were demanding the implementation of an agreement on salaries signed between the power loom owners and workers last year. The power loom owners are not implementing the agreement achieved after a one month long struggle by the workers.

More than 200 000 power loom workers went on strike last year against slave wages and conditions. This strike and protest action continued for one month. The City government and Labour department brokered a deal between the owners and workers. According to that agreement owners agreed to raise the salaries by at least 35%. They also agreed to pay overtime to all workers that work more than 8 hours a day. But the owners are not implementing this agreement which has caused huge anger among the workers.

The power loom workers also organised a sit-in in front of the District Nazim (Mayor’s) office. The city government is clearly siding with owners and ignored the appeals of workers to intervene. The workers have announced to continue protests until their demands are met. The workers are very angry and are forcing their trade union leadership to take strike action. One protesting worker expressed his anger in these words “They are paying us 50% less than what they promised. We are working 12 hours a day in highly unhygienic conditions. We do not have social security and other basic facilities. We will not accept these slave conditions”.

Power loom workers are among the worst of low paid workers. They are not even covered under the social security and pesnion benefit. They have no pension rights and job security. There are no health facilities available to these workers and if somebody falls ill or is injured during work, they will not get any free medical treatment or compensation. Workers who are forced to take time off work because of work-related injuries, do not receive any sort of sickness payment.

These horrific and repressive conditions have force the workers to fight to improve their conditions.

Trade Union Rights Campaign Pakistan (TURCP) members are actively taking part in this protest movement and fully supporting the demands of power loom workers. The TURCP is also organising a solidarity protest and meeting on Saturday 20th May in Faisalabad to mobilize the support of other trade unions.

We are demanding the immediate implementation of the agreement and we have produced a leaflet in support of the power loom workers. The TURCP will continue campaigning on this important question and preparing a national solidarity action next week if workers’ demands are not met.

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May 2006