Pakistan: May day 2007 – Workers want fightback by union leaders against neo-liberal policies of the military

Trade Union Rights Campaign Pakistan (TURCP) organised and participated in activities across Pakistan in more than 40 towns and cities.

May Day is the most important activity for the working class in Pakistan. Hundreds of thousands workers march through the main streets and squares across the country. All the trade unions, federations and political parties (including the capitalist parties) celebrate this day. This year was no different, even the pro-military right wing ruling party Pakistan Muslim League – Q organized rallies in many cities. Religious political parties are the only ones which never celebrate or organise any activity on May Day.

The turn out in the May Day activities was low this year compared to the previous years. The main reason for this low turn out was that the leaderships of the trade union federations and larger unions did not seriously mobilise amongst the working class. The turnout on Mayday shows that the workers’ movement and trade unions have been weakened in the last few years.

The labour movement because of its weak leadership has failed to defend itself from the capitalist onslaught. The present military-led government has taken full advantage of the situation and introduced many anti worker and union laws, including the 12 hour working day, restrictions on strikes and bans on trade union activities.

The Trade Union Rights Campaign Pakistan organized its May Day activities against this back ground. A special four page May Day leaflet was produced and was distributed in all the main cities across the country. TURCP members also produced posters in different areas. TURCP members organised and participated in events in more than forty cities and towns across the country in all the provinces. The TURCP had a target of mobilising over 2000 workers and young people to attend its own events. According to all the reports we easily achieved that target. May Day related activities will continue this week and more seminars and labour conferences will be organized. Below are some some brief accounts of important activities:

Dadu

TURCP and Sindh Shehri Ittehad (local alliance of trade unions and community organizations affiliated with TURCP) organized a public rally in the town of Tharri Mohabat in Dadu district of Sindh province. More than 600 workers and youth participated in this rally. The whole town was decorated with red flags and banners. The rally marched through the main street and ended up in the main square. The rally was covered in the media. The leading Sindhi TV channels repeatedly showed this rally. The newspapers also carried photos and articles about the event. All the trade unions in this town and surrounding areas participated. Bairri Mazdoor union (local cigarette makers union), transport workers union and brick kiln workers union played important role in the mobilisation.

The production of first issue of Socialist in the Sindhi language got a tremendous response. More than 250 copies of Socialist were sold in the rally. This was one of the biggest May Day rally ever in this small town. Hameed Chennah TURCP Sindh organiser led the rally along with Fatah Wains, Wahab Merani, Mumtaz Brohi and Hadiat Kalhoro.

Larkana

TURCP members organised public meetings in the main hospital of this city. More than 100 health workers participated in this meeting. The speakers paid rich tribute to the historic struggle of the Chicago workers. They emphasised the need to organise a united struggle against the anti working class policies of the present regime. The TURCP members have recently won the election of the health workers union in this important hospital. TURCP members also participated in the main rally organised by different trade unions. The TURCP May Day leaflet was also distributed.

Lahore

TURCP started its May Day activities by organising a public meeting on the issue of migrant workers. The main purpose of this meeting was to give information to the trade union activists on the immigrant workers movement in US and to show our solidarity with immigrant workers in America. TURCP strongly condemn the horrific conditions faced by the immigrant workers in US, EU and Middle East. Nearly 100 trade union activists attended the meeting. Twenty different trade unions were represented in the public meeting. This was first meeting of this kind in Pakistan which discussed in detail the conditions faced by the immigrant workers.

TURCP members also participated in a protest demonstration organised by the teachers union against the planned privatisation of educational institutions and for increases in wages. TURCP members distributed the May Day leaflet in the demonstration. Teachers union activists thanked the TURCP members for their support and solidarity.

TURCP also participated in the main rallies organised by different trade union federations. Hundreds of leaflets were distributed in the rallies and papers were sold. The turn out in these rallies were very low. Around 50 TURCP members participated in these rallies. The extremely hot weather (45 Celsius) also contributed to the low turn.

Islamabad/ RawalPindi

TURCP members intervened in two different public meetings and rallies. The Pakistan Workers Confederation organised a public meeting in Rawalpindi. Around 300 workers attended this meeting. TURCP members distributed leaflets at the meeting. The TURCP also participated in a rally in Rawalpindi and distributed leaflets. TURCP members also participated in a rally organized by Hawkers union in Islamabad. More than 100 leaflets were distributed and many papers were sold. The TURCP will organise a seminar next week on the present crises in the leadership of the trade union movement.

Dir

The TURCP organised a public meeting in this city of North West Frontier Province. This city is one of the main centre of Islamic Fundamentalism in the Province. Recently, the local Taliban banned the shaving of beards and ordered the males to grow them or be punished. They have also attacked music and TV shops. Despite all the difficulties faced by TURCP members, they organized a May Day public meeting in the local school. Around 60 workers from public sector unions participated in the meeting. May Day leaflets were also distributed. Speakers condemned the recent attacks on the girls’ schools and CD shops by local Taliban organisations. They also condemned the recent suicide bomb attacks in the different cities of NWFP.

Peshawar

TURCP members participated and distributed leaflets in a rally organized by Muthida Labor Federation. This was the largest rally organised by any trade union or federation in the city. This was the only leaflet distributed by any organisation with a clear demand for a workers’ and peasants’ government and for the formation of a new workers party. TURCP members also participated in different seminars and public meetings and put forward their views through leaflets and speeches.

Muzafar Ghar

TURCP and Aims organization (a community organization) organized a May Day rally in the town of Jatoi, District Muzafar Ghar in south Punjab. More than 250 trade union activists, youth, peasants and women participated in the rally. The rally went through the main streets and ended up in the main square, where different leaders made speeches.

The participants and speakers condemned the finance bill 2006 and demanded the reduction in the working hours. The rally also condemns the recent violence from the fundamentalist groups against the innocent civilians. May Day leaflets were also distributed.

Bahawalpur

More than seventy workers participates in a TURCP organised demo against the anti-worker and trade unions policies and legislation of the present government.

Quetta

The alliance of local trade unions in Quetta organised a rally in which TURCP members participated. Hundreds of workers from public and private sector attended the rally.

TURCP May Day leaflet was distributed and papers were sold in the rally. TURCP members also organized a protest demonstration in front of the press club against the 12 hour working day law called finance bill 2006.

Karachi

TURCP members intervened in many activities in what is Pakistan’s biggest city. The TURCP participated in more events here than in any other city or town in Pakistan.

TURCP also organized activities and participated in events in Faisalabad, Sahiwal, Multan, Jhang, Bahawalnagar, Khair pur tamaiwali, Layyah, Sialkot, Hyderabad, Tando Jam, Sanghar, Shikarpur, Mardan, Swat, Nowshehra, Ghotki, Rahim Yar khan, Jand and other cities and towns. These interventions will enable the TURCP to prepare for future struggles and movements of the working class. TURCP has once again emerged as the largest trade union campaign in the country, which is not only fighting to defend trade union and workers rights but also involved in developing new unions. TURCP has built 3 new unions in different sectors. The international solidarity and financial assistance from trade unions around the world plays a key role in the formation of new unions and to launch new campaigns for the workers rights.

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