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Pakistan: Sacked GSK workers fight for justice

12 March, 2018Pakistani management of the British pharmaceutical multinational GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has illegally dismissed over 150 workers after years of union busting and manipulation of contracts.

IndustriALL Global Union is supporting its Pakistani affiliate, the PCEM, as its members at GSK conduct a demonstration outside the gates of the company’s West Wharf Plant in Karachi.

GSK has used a sham outsourcing contract system at the West Wharf Plant for many years. While there are 110 permanent employees, over 400 have been employed on a contractual basis via third party employers. Many of those contract workers have worked at the plant for 20 years and under all legal and ethical standards deserve to be employed directly by GSK on a permanent basis.

In the year 2015, 200 of these workers took legal action and received a court order confirming their employment right. Pursuant to this legal foundation, the workers, through their union, pushed to be covered by a collective bargaining agreement. However management blocked this group of employees from obtaining collective bargaining coverage.

In December 2017, the West Wharf Plant management cancelled the contract with the third-party employer “Excellent Services” and shifted the contract to another company HRSG, expecting all the workers to continue their job, but lose their rights and cancel their pending disputes.

Refusing to sign this sham deal, the workers continued to carry out their work duties as usual. Then management stopped paying the workers’ salaries and benefits. From 1 March 2018 the management has conducted an illegal lockout of the workers, deploying security forces at the plant gates.

Despite the company deploying a sizeable security force, around 150 workers have been protesting outside the factory gates since the lockout began. They demand their jobs back.

In his letter to the GSK Pakistan Chief Executive, Azizul Huq, IndustriALL Global Union general secretary Valter Sanches writes:

“This stand off and denigrating disrespect of your workforce are very damaging to the international reputation of GlaxoSmithKline. The PCEM is a mature and responsible trade union that is a well-connected part of the global trade union movement. 

"The PCEM will be fully supported throughout this conflict with you in Pakistan. I expect your swift and serious response so that we can work towards a solution that repairs the reputational damage that your management has already caused.”

IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan said:

“I will be in Pakistan this week and will stand with our members on their picket outside the GSK factory. What shameful treatment by this world-famous medicine maker of the people who make their product.”