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Sustained campaign by carpet workers in Pakistan yields wage rise

4 February, 2022After a sustained campaign by Ittehad Labour Union Carpet Industries Pakistan (ILUCIP) and workers in the carpet industry, the Punjab Government in Pakistan announced a wage increase of 2,500 PKR (US $14.21) for industrial workers in June 2021. When employers failed to comply, workers took action.

Employers in the carpet industry failed to comply with the ruling and continued paying the old wages till workers resorted to warning strikes in September 2021. The unions gave final notice to factory owners on 19 August that the union members would stop work from 6 September.

More than 2,000 workers participated in the strike.

IndustriALL Global Affiliate ILUCIP led negotiations with the employers with a charter of demands that included:

  1. Workers who are engaged in cutting, washing, preparing, chattan, kinara, phatta, dyeing, and raffugar (all processes in carpet making) must be provided a raise of 4,000 PKR (US $22.71).
  2. Carpet workers must be provided with social security and old age benefit cards.
  3. Masters in washing must be given a raise of 6,000 PKR (US $34.07) per month.
  4. Workers whose wages are calculated on the basis of the carpet area worked on must be given a raise of 2 PKR (US $0.01) per square foot.

As protests across the factories intensified, factory owners gradually agreed to the workers’ demands to implement the wage raise set by the government. There was a complete strike from 6 to 9 September, and by December, most employers had implemented the government wage rate. The union’s fight yielded an increment of 16 per cent for piece rate and per square foot wage workers, and 14 per cent for fixed salary workers.

Niaz Khan, general secretary of ILUCIP, said,

“The union put up a strong fight this time but we have a long way to go. We must ensure that all our demands are met and that no worker is exploited.”

Apoorva Kaiwar, regional secretary of IndustriALL, said,

“We congratulate our affiliate for standing strong and winning this important victory. It’s a shame that even after the government order, factory owners refused to increase the wage, and the union had to resort to direct action. The wage increases show us the importance of unified action.”