Kashmir: Successful Trade Union rights conference held

Government fails to solve the problems of the quake affected public sector workers.

“In the absence of labour laws and labour courts, working class people are continued to be exploited”. This remark was just one of the many made by trade unionists and workers representatives at a Trade Unions Rights conference 2006 organised by the Trade Union Rights Campaign-Kashmir (TURC-K) at Rawalakot (Pakistani Occupied Kashmir – POK).More than 200 trade unionists and workers attended this very successful meeting

This conference was called to express solidarity with the ongoing ‘lock-out’ strike action and protest demonstrations underway by the Employees Unity Action Committee, Poonch Division. These protests have been made up of thousands of earthquake affected public sector workers of districts of Bagh, Rawalakot and Sudnothi in Kashmir. The conference was also to highlight the continuous denial of the basic democratic rights of the working-class in POK where no labour laws or labour court have existed for the last six decades!

Trade union leaders from all over POK territory including , health, education, electricity, non-gazetted, clerical and forest department workers, workers from the informal sector and representatives of trade unions from Pakistan and members and supporters of TURC-Kashmir and ISR participated in this first ever held conference to address the main issues facing the working class.

The aims and objectives of the TURC-K were introduced and the need for a platform for all trade unions highlighting the plight of the working class through the neo-liberal policies which have affected and made the lives of millions of people a misery.

Trade union leaders and representatives of different workers’ organisations said while addressing the conference that the rulers of Pakistan and ‘Azad’(free) Kashmir, by following up and implementing neo-liberal market polices on the behest of world capitalism and it’s institutions, the IMF and the World bank, were snatching bread and jobs from the working class of this region.

Other speakers said that the ruling Muslim Conference and the Pakistan Peoples Party in Kashmir have no programme for the betterment of the working class, which is why the working class by getting organised, have to lay the foundation for a workers own political party to defend their class interests.

Speakers at the conference called for the rehabilitation of quake affected public sector workers, the fulfilment of the government’s own promise to give three months advance salary as bonus and writing-off of flexi loans. Speakers explained that the failure to implement these demands has meant workers have become victims of unprecedented suffering and hardship they face day in day out, while performing their duties.

The conference was chaired by ex-president of AJK Paramedical Staff Association (PSA) Sardar Khalid, while following speakers included PTCL Lion’s Unity Union (Pakistan) Azad Qadri, Zahoor Ahmed -Railway Workers Union, Azam Janjua Newspapers Hawkers Union, Vice Chairman AJK Bar Council Mohammed Ilyas Chaudry advocate, Sardar Farooq – School Teachers Organisation, All Pakistan Clerical Employees Association (APCEA) Sardar Imtiaz and secretary general of Action Committee Poonch Division, Non-Gazetted senior vice-president Mir Nazir and patron Syed Mushtaq Gardezi, President of Electricity workers (technical) Sardar Shahpaal, Ex-president of PSA Sadar Yasin, Mohammed Ramzan, Mohammed Imtiaz, sardar Arshad APCEA, School Teachers organisation Khalid Gillani, Khalid Barbar, TURC_K organiser Mussarrat Malik, Toqeer Gillani and ISR organiser Shakoor Azeem.

The following resolutions were passed at the conference where nearly two dozen speakers made their contributions!

  • Government to immediately accept the 14 point charter of demand of quake affected workers.
  • Introduction and formation of labour laws and labour courts in ‘Azad’ Kashmir(POK)
  • All anti-workers laws, particularly Special power Act and policies of privatisation, down-sizing be scrapped!
  • Minimum wage be implemented
  • All workers and employees in public and informal sectors be given the right to form trade unions.
  • Solidarity expressed with nearly 600 yarn mill workers of Spintex mill in Mirpur and condemned the discrimination and anti-workers attitude by the company management.
  • Solidarity expressed with the working class in Indian occupied Kashmir (IOK) and condemned the killings of trade union leaders and support the rightful demands of the working class and demanded of the government to fulfil their demands immediately.

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January 2007