Dedicated plant-level campaigners and constant support from IndustriALL Global Union for over two years has today resulted in a hard-fought trade union victory for Syngenta workers in Pakistan.
The Syngenta Employees Union of Pakistan took on the Swiss-based agrochemicals multinational. The union’s primary goal was for the company to respect Pakistani labour law and give 50 contract employees permanent jobs. The union’s first legal victory was 18 December 2010 when the local labour court ruled to support the workers’ grievances and their lawful right to permanent employment.
The union-busting tactics of the local management included bringing in paramilitaries to the factory to threaten and intimidate workers to join the yellow union; the head of the plant level union learned of his sacking through an article in the local “Daily Jang” newspaper on 23 December 2010, the sacking was effective from the day prior.
That sacked trade unionist is Imran Ali, also president of the Pakistan Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers (PCEM), which is in turn affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union. Imran Ali was summarily sacked one week prior to the end of bargaining that would have brought a new CBA on 1 January 2011.
From this date on management refused dialogue with the union and hired an expensive law firm to fight the union through each level of Pakistani courts. Every level of Pakistan’s courts ruled in favour of the union and every ruling was rejected and appealed by the company.
The last barrier was the High Court of Sindh in the capital Karachi. Finally victory can be celebrated as PCEM general secretary Muhammad Suhail informed IndustriALL last night of an agreement at the High Court. Acting on the agreement Syngenta management has issued appointment letters and accepted all of the 50 workers onto permanent contracts.
PCEM general secretary Suhail said:
“This all happened with the help, and great support of the IndustriALL, and this is the great victory of the IndustriALL in Pakistan that one of the Multinational Company compelled to accept 50 workers as permanent employees of the company with back financial benefits of last three years, specially in the scenario of Pakistani Trade Union Movement, where trade union activities has been crushed by not only employers but also from the side of the government.”
The reinstatement of the Syngenta union head Imran Ali is still pending however.
Jyrki Raina, secretary general of IndustriALL Global Union praises the union for its tenacious struggle:
We are proud to support our affiliate and pleased to see this important victory for Syngenta workers in Pakistan.