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Three years of persecution for Pakistani Syngenta workers

2 August, 2013The long-standing, sustained attack on the local trade union of Swiss-based agrochemical multinational Syngenta in Pakistan has cost the company huge sums in legal fees, but management continues its ideological path of crushing the union at all costs.

Syngenta is a market leader in pesticide used in farming, posting a US$1.8 billion profit in 2012. The Swiss company’s code of conduct proclaims that this multinational:

Commits to comply with all labour laws, national and international codes and conventions, and upholds the principles set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Labour Organisation’s Core Conventions. These include the right to freedom of association, the right to organize and collective bargaining, equal remuneration and minimum age requirements.

In Syngenta’s operation in Pakistan, every sentiment of this code of conduct statement has been breached since December 2010. The Syngenta Employees Union Pakistan is part of the IndustriALL affiliated national union PCEM and the factory level union’s General Secretary is also president of PCEM. General Secretary Imran Ali was sacked for his trade union activities in December 2010 and dragged through countless court case appeals until in July 2013 he was hospitalised with heart problems.

Brother Imran Ali learned of his sacking through an article in the local newspaper during a period of negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. A major priority of Imran Ali in the union negotiations was to push through a change in employment status for 50 contract workers who had worked the legal requirement for a permanent contract.

Since the December sacking the union has won court cases at every level of the Pakistan courts both for Imran’s reinstatement following unlawful dismissal, and for the right of the 50 contract workers to be employed on a permanent basis. Each legal victory was followed by an absolute rejection of the judges’ recommendations by the company management who instead continued to appeal to a higher level court all the way to the High Court of Sindh in capital Karachi.

Bearing in mind the history of the conflict, IndustriALL General Secretary Raina today wrote to Syngenta global management to say that there are no remaining avenues to escape the company’s legal and moral responsibilities towards its Pakistani workers. It is time to enact the judicial rulings and cease the union busting campaign. Failing positive action from Syngenta IndustriALL will take this case to the complaints mechanism of the OECD.