Sweden: Ferry company sacks Pakistani workers

Struggle against discrimination, for jobs

Every day, 19 sacked Pakistani workers and supporters leaflet passengers on the ferry, Birger Jarl, in central Stockholm. The leaflet calls for a boycott of the company and for support for the workers.

Fired Pakistani stewards protest every day outside Allandia’s office in Stockholm

”We appeal to everyone to avoid travel with this company until the sacked Pakistani workers get their jobs back”, says Arne Johansson from the Support Committee for Justice at Birger Jarl and Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI Sweden).

The 19 Pakistani workers were sacked in April this year, after between 7 and 23 years employment for the company. They have worked as stewards, with cleaning and other service duties onboard.

The company refers to changed European Union rules, cutting state grants to shipping companies with employees from outside the EU. The company, however, has exploited these workers and earned huge profits long before there existed any EU-regulated grants and even before Sweden was a member of the EU.

The sacking of the Pakistani workers is blatant ethnic discrimination, only based on nationality. The company has also refused to prolong work permits, previously done on a yearly basis. Instead, the company has hired workers from Estonia and Latvia on short-term contracts.

Ishtiaq Ahmed is one of those who have lost their jobs and thereby eventually also the right to stay in Sweden. He started working on the ferry when he was 19, and is now 34 years old. He explains how two of the workers returned to Pakistan because family members are seriously ill. They can now return to Sweden only if reinstated on the boat.

It will be very difficult to find jobs in Pakistan, they have no longer any contacts, and most of them are regarded as too old for the Pakistani labour market.

The original trade union of the stewards, Seko, did not lift a finger to fight for their jobs. This was despite several previous struggles that raised wages to the level of union agreements.

Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (RS, CWI Sweden) have been supporting the Pakistani workers in different struggles for more then ten years. This time, the workers left the Seko union and joined the smaller syndicalist union, SAC, which has a record of fighting for workers without papers. Now, every day, representatives of SAC and RS, together with the workers, leaflet the passengers.

The Pakistani workers are even threatening a hunger strike to achieve their demands. “They will wait until we have no money left. But I will stay until I die – and if I die I shall be buried here”, says Raja Munir of the sacked workers. This shows how desperate the workers feel.

It is the responsibility of the workers’ movement, in Sweden and internationally, to ensure that this never happens to Raja or any of his fellow workers, by protesting and demonstrating complete solidarity for a full victory in their struggle.

Protest letters with the demand of reinstatement should be sent to:

Rederi Allandia:

Email: info@anedinlinjen.se

Fax: 0046 -8-10 07 41

Please send support messages to: campaign@birgerjarl.info

Copies of both to: rs@socialisterna.org

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December 2008