[Posted below are press statements by two labour movement organisations in Pakistan]
PILER condemns anti-terrorism trial of Ittehad Town Workers; Calls for immediate release of workers; Demand immediate restoration of labour inspection
KARACHI, March 26, 2012: The Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) has condemned the brutal treatment meted out to the six power-loom workers who are being tried by the Anti-Terrorism Court after being falsely booked under extortion charges in Ittehad Town, Karachi.
In a statement issued here Monday, PILER demanded immediate release of the workers booked in Karachi and called for tough action against the police officials and the factory owners who were involved in levelling false charges against workers and subjecting them to the unwarranted trauma.
PILER also called for action against all those power-looms and towel
manufacturing industries at Ittehad Town that are neither registered under the Factories Act, nor extend a formal employment letter, minimum wages or social security benefits to the employed workers.
The workers were arrested from the industrial zone of Ittehad Town last week in a raid following a consistent protest for the last one-and-a-half months demanding increase in wages and a weekly day off. Six workers who led the formation of a union at the industrial unit were picked by the police – that worked in connivance with the factory owners - and booked under extortion charges. These workers were produced in Anti Terrorism Court in Karachi on Saturday in a distraught condition. They were brutally tortured by the police that tried hard to force them to declare before the media that they were involved in extortion activities in the industrial area. The workers, however, refused to give in.
The Anti Terrorism Court Judge himself took note of the severe torture on workers and warned the Investigation Office against any third degree tactics, ordering him to extend proper medical care to the traumatised workers.
Demanding immediate withdrawal of false charges against the Ittehad Town workers, PILER observed that extending anti-terrorism charges and totally unjustified punishment against workers is the latest tactic of the state that ally with the powerful industrial elite to crush workers who demand their due rights. Last year, six labour leaders representing the Labour Qaumi Movement (LQM) were sentenced to lifetime imprisonment for being involved in holding a strike for a 17 percent raise in labour wages in Faisalabad. The workers’ families are in a state of utter distress in the absence of the prime bread earners.
Apart from the suffering of the family, this is seriously demoralising for workers who are merely demanding their constitutional and legal rights including those related to unionisation, minimum wages, and social security. These provisions are enshrined in the constitution and the state has a duty to ensure access to these rights and entitlements.
PILER stressed that there is a very strong case for the restoration of labour inspection in the Province of Sindh and in other parts of the country (it is banned in Sindh and Punjab) which would have at least ensured that the state is monitoring organisations that are not complying with basic labour laws. Instead that state itself has gone on to supervise anti-labour practices, removing all safeguards that were constitutionally provided to protect workers.
Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER)
Gulshan e Maymar, Karachi 75340 [Pakistan]
Ph: +(92-21) 36351145/7
Fax: +(92-21) 36350345
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NATIONAL TRADE UNION FEDERATION, PAKISTAN (NTUF)
26 March 2012
NATIONAL TRADE UNION FEDERATION, PAKISTAN (NTUF) PRESS STATEMENT ON PLIGHT OF UNION ACTIVISTS BOOKED UNDER ANTI TERRORIST ACT
It is very vulnerable situation for trade union activist that trend to try union activist under ATC has been gain popularity among factory and private corporations to crush the growing healthy phenomenon of trade unionism in industrial sector.
Last week on 22 March seven power loom workers of Etehad town industrial area in Baldia town Karachi were picked up by the Ranger in mid night raid and after appearing of news item about missing workers in some news papers handed over to Machhco police station on 23 March. One worker Hazarat Yousuf was released the same night and other six (Arshad, Neak Muhammed,Saif u Rehman, Nizam u Din, Akhter Ali and Shaukat) were severely tortured by the police in the presence of SHO (Machhco Police Station)Nasir Mehmood.
The police officer forcing them to accept their involvement in extortion activities in front of electronic media but workers flatly deny the charges of their involvement in bhatta collection in any way.
The actual situation is that in Etehad town more than one thousand illegal power looms,towel and other manufacturing units have been established where more than 50,000 workers engaged to produce merchandise for the big textile exporting tycoons.
Majority of these factories have not been registered under factory act so not a single worker getting minimum wage of 7000 per month, not covered under any social and old age benefit institutes and no one have appointment which is shear violation of existing labour laws. Working condition are worst and average worker’s working hours are ranging from 10 to 16 hour a day with out any facility of over time.
When the power loom worker registered their union with labour department two month ago and demanded to increase the wages and improvement in working conditions, factory owners sacked more than 350 workers from their jobs, one and half month ago and try to recruit new one on the job.
When union registered their complain with labour department through written application, labour department took action and called the factory owners to explain their position, instead of following the law full process they restore to illegal mean and involved the Rangers and police in industrial dispute to harasse the demanding workers and union activists.
Having the backing of high ups in administration and closed connection with power circles they have use the brutal force against the innocent workers and booked them under Anti Terrorist Act with false charges of bhatta collection.
The same method was used in Faisalabad six months ago against six trade union activists and get convicted for 490 years in ATC and in recent past tried to trail the KESC union representative under the same notorious ATA in Karachi.
We appeal to the Chief Justice of Supreme Court and the chief Justice of Sindh High Court to look into the use of ATA against trade union activist and take corrective measures to halt the misuse of the law to appease the capitalist by police and rangers.
We also appeal to IG and DIG to stop their officers at police station indulging in industrial dispute and favoring the factory owners unlawfully and use the police force against the union activists.
Deputy General Secretary
National Trade Union Federation,Pakistan
404 Mashriq Center Gulshan Iqbal 14, Karachi [Pakistan]
Fax +9221 34853685
Mobile +92300 358 7211