IndustriALL Global Union has written to the Prime Minister of Pakistan to express solidarity with workers protesting against privatization and to urge the government to stop the brutal repression of peaceful demonstrations.
It follows the deaths of two Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) employees Enayat Raza and Saleem Akbar who were killed on 2 February during clashes with security personnel. They had been taking part in a peaceful workers’ rally in Karachi against government plans to privatize PIA. Many people including women workers and journalists were injured in the violent crackdown by authorities.
On the same day four trade union members at PIA disappeared and were released by unidentified men six days later.
In the letter to Prime Minister Muhammad Navaz Sharif, IndustriALL's general secretary, Jyrki Raina, wrote:
We strongly condemn the violent clampdown of workers’ peaceful protests. Criminalization of workers must end immediately. In a democracy, dialogue not repression, will bring lasting solutions to pressing issues faced by the people of Pakistan.
IndustriALL expressed condolences to the families and co-workers of the deceased employees and called upon the government of Pakistan “to end the repression of workers and start a national consultation with workers’ organizations to reach amicable solutions to the issues raised by workers.”
IndustriALL has also called on the government to withdraw the Essential Services Act with regard to PIA, which effectively bans all PIA employees from carrying out union activities for the next six months.
Thanking the IndustriALL for the message of Solidarity, Suhail Baluch from the Joint Action Committee (JAC), the PIA employees’ body spearheading the struggle against privatization, said:
Workers of Pakistan are opposed to selling away national assets. Privatization, in any form, whether it is in the form of a strategic partner or selling minority shares, is not acceptable to the employees. The government should postpone the privatization drive for a year and give PIA employees a genuine chance to turnaround the airline.
The proposed privatization of 69 public sector companies is a part of loan conditions imposed by the International Monitory Fund (IMF). PIA is one among 39 public sector entities earmarked for early implementation of the privatization programme. Questioning the role of the IMF, Raina wrote: “The IMF is one of those very institutions that failed to predict the global economic crisis in 2008, and with its ‘one size fits for all’ policy approach continues to wreak havoc in developing countries’ economies.”
Imran Ali, General Secretary of Pakistan IndustriALL Council said “privatization of public sector enterprises must be opposed as it will lead to job losses and increase precarious work”.
After eight days of strike and protests across the country, the JAC withdrew the strike on 9 February and appealed for its members to return to work. The JAC is currently engaged in negotiations with the government. JAC’s demands include: a judicial commission to investigate the workers’ deaths, the immediate withdrawal of the government’s bill to privatize PIA and that PIA employees be given a chance to reform the airline.