Pakistán - Telecom unions under attack (2011)

In April 2006 Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) was taken over. Under an agreement all 61,000 PTCL workers were to have their wages increased, and there were promises of no layoffs. However, since then over 35,000 workers have lost their jobs, and the pay rise was never implemented. Since 2 August 2010, PTCL unions held nationwide strikes for two hours each day in order to press for the wage increase, and on 16 August this was increased to a total strike. PTCL management offered a 30% wage increase with another 20% increase linked to worker productivity by December 2010, but this offer was refused.

On 3 September, after 17 days of striking, union leaders met the Federal Minister of Labour and asked him to intervene. They were told that within three days the main demand – a 50% wage increase – would be met. However, that evening hundreds of policemen attacked the strike camp. It was reported that the police were bribed and that one police superintendent told officers involved that injuries should be severe enough so no one would be able to walk to jail. Over 50 strikers were arrested, with three central leaders charged under anti-terrorist laws and 35 others under 7ATA (Anti Terrorist Act). The arrests continued for the next 24 hours as homes were raided. As a condition for receiving their wages, PTCL workers were forced to sign a statement disassociating themselves from the strike. Over 250 workers were fired.

Since the September crackdown management has stopped annual bonuses for over 2,000 employees and has refused to pay wages to more than 500 others. The Secretary General of Pakistan Telecom Employees Union and several other leading unionists were unlawfully dismissed and some 250 more fired. The National Industrial Relation Commission suspended the termination orders, but management has not accepted the reversal.

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