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June 17, 2020

Protesters blast govt for sacking of PSM workers, polio vaccinators

Karachi

June 17, 2020

Speakers at a protest on Monday slammed the government for the privatisation of the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM), the sacking of over 11,000 polio workers, a notification issued by the Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) management against contractual employees, the decision to “sort out the overstaffed” Pakistan Railways employees, and expulsions of workers from industries in Karachi.

They said the government had been following “anti-labour and anti-poor policies of the international monetary bodies”. The demonstration was held by the Awami Workers Party (AWP) and the Pakistan Trade Union Federation (PTUF) outside the Karachi Press Club. It was attended by members of the PSM Trade Union Alliance, the SSGC Insaf Jafakash Union, the Railway Workers Union, the Polio Workers Action Committee, the Progressive Students Federation (PrSF), and various other trade unions and progressive organisations.

Akbar Narejo, the PSM Trade Union Alliance’s convenor, said that not only was the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government deceitful, “it is also murderous towards the workers”. “Before the elections, the PTI collected votes by putting up a pretence of opposition to privatisation, particularly that of PSM, which is why the PTI’s union emerged victorious in the PSM referendum,” he said. “But Asad Umar, who until then was saying that if the government privatised the institution, he would be found siding with the employees, can today be seen playing a major role in the process of privatisation.”

Muhammad Ayaz, the SSGC Insaf Jafakash Union president, said: “The federal government is like the monster who eats its own children. When our union approached the courts with the cases of contractual employees who had been working for 20 years for the company, the management resorted to sacking, demotions and transfers of the representatives of the Insaf Jafakash Union. At every crucial turn, the government could be seen standing by the management’s side against its own union”.

Sahibzada Amjad Ali Khan, a Railway Workers Union leader, said all institutions were being run as per the diktat of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, and under that scheme, the Pakistan Railways was also being headed in the direction of destruction and decay.

“On the one hand, Imran Khan in his duty towards the capitalists ends the lockdown in the name of workers and puts the lives of thousands of people at risk,” he said. “On the other hand, we see how his government is privatising the PSM, sacking more than 11,000 polio workers, and preparing to fire the so-called excess employees in Railways”.

Israr Baloch, a PrSF leader, said the government had allocated only one per cent of its Rs7.3 trillion budget to education, while the health budget had been much lesser than what was needed given the coronavirus crisis. “This has made it clear that the PTI-led government, which promised a welfare state, is ambitious to defend the interests of foreign powers, the powerful institutions and the capitalist.”

Kaneez Fatima, a PTUF trade unionist, said the PSM was not established by the corrupt rulers of Pakistan. “Instead, it was a gift to the workers of Pakistan from a workers’ state, the Soviet Union,” she said.

“Today, this gift is being sold for peanuts to appease American imperialism. Now is the time for all workers to unite and wage a countrywide struggle against the privatisation of the PSM and other institutions, against forceful sackings, against contractual employment systems and against the anti-people budget!”

AWP Karachi President Shafi Shaikh vowed that his party would unite the workers and peasants of the country to wage a struggle against the current system. “The attack on the PSM is not just an attack on one institution, it is an attack on every worker of Pakistan. It won’t be incorrect to say that it is also an attack on the economic stability of Pakistan.” Protesters also condemned the incident of firing on workers of a textile mill situated on National Highway.