Shipbreaking workers strike in Pakistan
Gadani shipbreaking workers strike for two days in July after employers renege a promise to negotiate better working conditions; negotiations have resumed and a court hearing is scheduled for July 21.
PAKISTAN: Shipbreaking workers in the Gadani yards in the Les Bella District of the Balochistan province of Pakistan went on strike from July 5 to 7 after the employers reneged an earlier promise to improve the conditions in the yards and continued to deny basic rights to the workers. The strike was unanimously decided by all present at a general meeting that an indefinite strike be called from July 5 until the following demands were met:
- 100 per cent increase in wages
- Registration with social security and old age benefits institutes
- Medical dispensary and ambulance at each ship breaking yard
- Clean drinking water and canteen at each yard
- Appointment letter for every worker
- End of contract labour (JAMADARY) system
- Workers' residential colony
- Recognition of the Gadani Ship Breaking Democratic Workers' Union (GSBDWU), which was deregistered by the Labour Commissioner
- Occupational safety measures at work place
- End of police harassment against workers
In response to the strike, the employers agreed to start negotiations with the union and the district court in Les Bella issued orders ending the strike and posted a hearing on July 21, 2010. The workers immediately reported back to work and are in negoiations, however they contest that the district court has no jurisdiction in labour matters as it is not a civil or criminal matter.
Earlier, on June 16, 2010 some 15,000 shipbreaking workers in the Gadani shipbreaking yard went on a two-day strike in protest of the accumulating injustices of appalling working conditions, low wages and difficult working hours.
The workers belonged to the Gadani Ship Breaking Democratic Workers' Union, which was deregistered by the Labour Commissioner a move which the union is contesting in court. Meanwhile, the shipbreaking workers have formed the Progressive Workers' Union of Gadani Ship Breaking.
The Gadani shipbreaking employers, with the help of local police and the Anti-Terrorist Task Force (ATTF), arrested the Progressive Workers Union of Gadani Ship Breaking President Bashir Mehmood Dani and the other office bearers of the union when the first strike began on June 16. Workers went to the police station and staged a demonstration on the same day, securing the release of the arrested trade union leaders and, in the presence of the police, reached an agreement with the employers to negotiate with the union.
Gadani shipbreaking owners had agreed to meet the workers demands by June 30, 2010 in return for the union calling off its strike on June 17, which was originally scheduled from June 16 to June 30. The owners' subsequent refusal to abide by the agreement and their underhand attempts to demoralize the union through physical threats and intimidation has only served to strengthen the resolve of the workers. Jul 16, 2010 – Cherisse Fredricks