Pakistan: Telecom workers win strike with 35% increase in the wages

8,000 contract workers’ ‘regularisation’ confirmed received this brief report on the outcome of the recent Telecom workers’ strike in Pakistan.

Telecom workers win strike with 35% increase in the wages

A two week long strike and protest movement by telecom workers in Pakistan was called off yesterday, Wednesday 30 July, when management accepted the strikes’ main demands. Management signed an agreement with the United Workers Alliance and started to implement it immediately. According to the agreement, workers will get a 35% immediate increase in the wages, as provisional hardship relief. A committee will be formed to review pay scales and to prepare new pay scales. 8,000 contract (NPCG) workers have been confirmed (‘regularized’) and will also get a 35% pay increase. These workers will also get all the concessions and benefits given to other telecom workers. In total, the workers won 13 concessions and benefits.

Significant victory

This is a significant victory for telecom workers. This struggle, once again, proved that workers can win and defend concessions and benefits through mass struggles. Telecom workers fought this battle in a very difficult conditions and circumstances. The trade union movement in Pakistan is very weak and there are few industrial struggles taking place. Moreover, the union leadership was not ready to conduct a struggle. The strike was isolated and not very well organized.

Despite all these weaknesses and difficulties, workers’ unity and determination saw big gains. Azad Qadri, a leading trade unionist in the telecom sector, and a leader of the striking workers, commented: “Every body was talking about ‘defeat’ and declared this strike [a] wrong move. This successful struggle proved them wrong. Workers are ready to fight but leaders are reluctant. The working class needs a fighting and radical leadership to defeat the capitalist onslaught and bosses offensive”.

This victory will give more confidence and courage to telecom workers, including for future struggles they will have to wage. This victory must be used to better organize the trade union movement in the telecom sector. The honest and fighting leaders and activists must form a new fighting and democratic union in the telecom sector (PTCL), to win further gains. The formation of the United Workers Alliance, and the workers’ unity shown in struggle during this strike, showed strong leadership and a union activist base really prepared to fight.

Opportunism defeated

The union leaders linked with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) labour wing tried to create obstacles in the way of the strikers, right up to the end of the dispute. They tried to organize separate negotiations with government ministers, to give the impression that they were the ‘real’ representatives of the workers. They tried every thing possible to create a rift among workers, along party political lines. Most the union leaders are not formally part of the PPP but sided with the PPP to make personal gains. A few of the union leaders allied with the previous PML-Q government. They did not support the new PPP government on a political basis but only for mere opportunism. Workers refused to listen to these union leaders, and took a firm stand against their opportunism. Workers rallied around the leadership of the United Workers’ Alliance and defeated the opportunist leaders and also won big concessions from the bosses.

This strike serves as an example of the way forward for the Pakistan union movement.

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