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Kashmir health workers' victory
A LONG health workers' struggle, including a threat of a second round of strike action, forced the government to finally honour an agreement reached three months earlier.
Jamal Khan, Trade Unions Rights Campaign Kashmir (TURCK)
While all previous negotiations with the employers came to a dead end, a three phase strike action was enough to force the government's hand. This is seen as a major victory for health workers, in particular, and public sector workers, in general.
The government was forced to issue a 'notification' concerning over 10,000 workers employed in the health department across POK (Pakistani Occupied Kashmir). The result saw new pay and service structures and channels of promotion worth 38 million Pakistan rupees per annum.
No service structure for health workers has existed since the division of Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan in 1947. These gains will benefit paramedical staff, support staff, staff nurses and allied specialties.
The successful and independent struggle by a section of public sector workers (which got international solidarity), over a couple of years, was led by the "democratic" group, under the slogan of 'Workers of the world unite!'.
The Trade Union Rights Campaign Kashmir (TURCK) campaigned for the holding of democratic elections in the Paramedical Staff Association (PSA) around which health workers are organised, as no elections for the central officers' positions for this union were held for over 12 years.
As a result of a campaign by members and supporters of TURCK to assist and build solidarity, the democratic group won a landslide victory in the May 2007 elections. A new militancy developed amongst the workers. The first strike action, last year, set the pace for future struggle, and the government was forced to accept the workers' demands.
A workers' leader said: "One thing that this struggle has proved is that it has raised the consciousness and confidence of all the workers, that their struggle can be successful." He added: "We will be also looking into the future for building our own voice, as our strike action and other public sector workers currently struggling for their demands, have exposed all the political parties, including nationalists and many so-called left groups here, none of whom raised their voice in our favour."
Recently, other public sector workers have also been on strike, including government printing and press workers, who, as a result of downsizing, lost their jobs and are fighting for reinstatement.
At the same time, public sector workers in the Poonch division have been on strike, demanding the implementation of their allowances and benefits for living in a larger urban area, Rawalakot, just as other public sector workers are paid such benefits in other areas.
Included in public sector workers' demands is the call for the setting up of Service Tribunal benches in all district headquarters, to facilitate workers, and also demands for labour laws and labour courts.
College teachers have also been on limited strike over pay and work hours. The Trade Union Rights Campaign Kashmir pledges to continue to assist workers struggling for their economic, political and democratic rights.
In The Socialist 27 May 2009:
Youth fight for jobs
Construction workers feature
International socialist news and analysis
PCS conference and workplace news
Socialist Party campaigning news