Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/394/4475
Telecom workers' strike against privatisation
THE MUSHARRAF government has launched a massive new privatisation campaign worth $1.7 billion.
Azad Qadri and Azam Janjuah, TURCP, Islamabad
The centre piece of this programme of looting of state assets is the Pakistan Telecommunications Company Ltd (PTCL) which makes £263 million in profit every year. Telecom workers, one of the most radical and class conscious sections of the public sector in Pakistan, are completely opposed to its privatisation.
The Socialist Movement (CWI in Pakistan) and the Trade Union Rights Campaign - Pakistan (TURCP) have played a major role in this struggle. They have been instrumental in the setting up of an Anti-Privatisation Committee made up of the nine unions within the industry as well as proposing a rolling programme of mass meetings and a daily two-hour strike. These meetings have brought together 41,000 telecom workers all over the country.
Management has delayed the bidding process three times now as a result of the action. Obviously no big businessman wants to buy shares in a company which is on strike! The government is enraged with the PTCL management and has written to them asking why they have such bad relations with the unions.
PTCL management wanted to use negotiations to cause divisions amongst the unions and get them to halt their programme of mass meetings and daily strikes. But because of the pressure on management they promised they would accept the demands of the unions on pay scales and bonuses. However, they said they could not withdraw the privatisation plans and demanded that the action organised by the unions be called off immediately before any further discussions. As a result the meeting broke down.
Workers want to fight to the end. They have practically taken over the strike. The public meeting on 16 May in Quetta (Baluchistan) showed the real mood of the workers. 1,500 workers participated, the largest meeting ever organised in the telecom sector.
Now the daily two-hour strike has spread to every corner of the country. There were some problems in Karachi in the beginning, because the MQM (a Karachi-based linguistic political party) was forcing the leadership not to observe the strike there. But workers refused to "follow orders" and are now observing the daily two-hour strike for the last two days.
Impact of material
THE LEAFLET produced by the TURCP has received a tremendous response nationally. We have received many calls from telecom workers all over the country. The workers are distributing this leaflet and demanding more.
The response has been more impressive than we really thought. Workers are saying that after reading this leaflet they are more determined to fight against privatisation. Many are saying that it is the first time they have seen material like this.
The Socialist Movement and TURCP also have launched a campaign of solidarity meetings to get support from other sections of workers for the telecom dispute. The first solidarity meeting will be held in Islamabad on 23 May. Other meetings in Lahore, Multan, Karachi, Faisalabad, Hyderabad and other cities, will follow.
For more info see www.socialistworld.net
In The Socialist 26 May 2005: