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Syngenta Pakistan refuses to regularize 50 contract workers

27 September, 2012Swiss-based agrichemicals multinational Syngenta has behaved disgracefully in Pakistan since sacking the company-level union’s General Secretary in December 2010. During a very long legal battle for the right of 50 workers to permanent employment, management has rejected the judgements of numerous labour courts, ruling in favour of the workers.

Now, after failing to achieve judicial support despite the efforts of a famous law firm in Pakistan, management is attempting to establish a yellow union and crush the Syngenta Employees Union. The small Syngenta Employees Union is affiliated to IndustriALL’s affiliate Pakistan Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Union (PCEM). The dismissed General Secretary Brother Imran Ali, who is also President of PCEM, learned of his dismissal in the local newspaper and was clearly sacked for his trade union activities.

PCEM General Secretary Muhammad Suhail contacted IndustriALL 23 September to warn on yellow union development and to report on the on-going legal process.

The 2,000 member national union celebrated a great legal victory in March 2012 when the case for full employment rights for 50 contract workers was won in the Labour Appellant Tribunal. The case had already been appealed once but again management preferred to continue financing an expensive legal process and keep its Pakistani employees on short-term precarious contracts. All 50 petitions are now pending before the High Court of Sindh Province. Repeated union offers of dialogue have been rejected by the local management of the global pesticide producer.

One of IndustriALL’s predecessor organizations, the ICEM conducted considerable solidarity assistance for the Syngenta Employees Union. Together with Swiss affiliate UNIA, pressure was brought to the global management and the Pakistani authorities for justice in this case. That solidarity and support will continue until Syngenta begins to conform to its own code of conduct which states:

“The Syngenta Code of Conduct sets out our commitment to comply with all labour laws, national and international codes and conventions, and to uphold the principles set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Labour Organization’s Core Conventions. These include the right to freedom of association, the right to organize and collective bargaining, equal remuneration and minimum age requirements."

The PCEM led by General Secretary Muhammad Suhail continues to push for the full reinstatement of Syngenta Employees Union General Secretary Imran, with full back pay and benefits, as well as the lawful recognition of the 50 workers who won their case in the Labour Court for rights to permanent employment at Syngenta.