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January 10, 2019

Labour unions express solidarity with protesting Port Qasim dock workers

Karachi

January 10, 2019

Trade unions, labour leaders and human rights activists have announced a rally in support of the Port Qasim dock workers who have been protesting for months outside the Karachi Press Club.

Representatives of various labour unions made the announcement on Wednesday at the press club. “We ask the government to speedily accept the demands of the workers as they have been sitting at the protest site for over three months,” said Karamat Ali, the director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler).

Ali lamented that to date the concerned officials and authorities had been most apathetic towards these workers and their demands. He said that he along with other labour leaders had met the provincial labour secretary and other concerned officials but so far there was no response and that it was just like pouring water over a duck’s back. No organisation, foreign or local, was within its right to usurp the rights of the workers, he said.

According to Ali, thus far no concerned official had bothered to visit the strikers’ camp and urged the government to arrange a speedy meeting between the workers and the officials concerned.

Labour leader Hussain Badshah said that the workers had abided by the laws of civility but, he warned, if the stalemate continued, the workers would be compelled to stage a sit-in in front of the parliament building in Islamabad.

Earlier, he said, the workers had deferred the decision on the sit-in at the behest of the civil society leaders. The dock workers of Port Qasim are demanding the provision of due labour rights under the country’s labour laws. According to the union leaders, they are not receiving salaries from a Chinese company for the last many months. The Chinese company which has been allocated berths numbers 3 and 4 by the Port Qasim Authority (PQA) refuses to recognise the rights of the workers.

Lawyer Shumaila Shahani, a civil society figure, condemned the stance of the government and questioned as to why the Chinese company was showered with that partial treatment at the cost of the workers’ rights. “Is this part of the CPEC accord?” she questioned cynically.

Others who endorsed the rights of the dock workers unconditionally were noted Railways workers’ union figure Manzoor Razi, Habibuddin Junaidi, Liaquat Sahi, and Saeed Baloch of the Fisherfolk’s Forum. Junaidi warned that if the rulers tried to suppress the workers’ movement with strong arm tactics it would be highly inflammatory and agitation would spread.

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