Why is the PC Hotel Karachi Functional Despite Strike by Over 250 Workers?

Occupation Day 12: I am reposting Dr Riaz’s (International Socialists) latest facebook update on the PC hotel occupation below. Let me add to this that the union met today with the hotel management and the Labour department as scheduled, but there was no end to the deadlock. The management is demanding that the workers end their occupation before negotiations.

The workers on the other hand are adamant on staying put until their demands are met. When I spoke to one of the workers in the basement he told me that the hotel “was their second home” so they are comfortable staying there as long as it takes.

Meanwhile the media blackout continues. In addition to Express News TV, I can tell you on good information that the Karachi assignment desk of Geo News has also been specifically told by superiors not to cover the story right now. Action for a Progressive Pakistan has a put together a very useful page with a lot of information on the issue and a petition.

Why is the PC Hotel Karachi Functional Despite Strike by Over 250 Workers?

The protest camp outside and the occupation by 150-250 workers inside continues. Those inside are in high spirits. Intl Socialist comrades talked to one of the occupation leaders Ubaid and he said those inside are determined to continue struggle until all 4 sacked union activists are reinstated. However the occupation is having its effects on the striking workers, some have fell ill and others are exhausted. But they continue to hold their ground and are not leaving the basement. Today 4 of these who had ventured out were stopped by security from re-entering the hotel and they were asked to sign a letter stating they will resign if they do not do work after entering the hotel. They all refused.

Today i talked to some workers inside PC hotel who are not part of the strike. These are over 350 contractual employees hired from one Maha Enterprises by PC management. Maha Enterprise is owned by one Aslam Siddiqui. These contractual workers do all types of jobs, they work in Engineering, House Keeping, Banquet and others similar to the permanent striking workers. Contractual workers were hired in 2001 by the PC management when it sacked over 300 permanent workers including the union officials who continue to struggle in these last 9 years. The contractual employees are illegally forced to sign a blank page that is used as their resignation letter by the Maha Enterprise on very minor issues. For example, one worker told IS comrades that if the contract employees are seen talking to a union activist then he either dismissed or is severely reprimanded. However despite this intimidating atmosphere a large number of contractual workers have recently joined the PC Workers Union.

The PC management continues to use illegal, threatening measures against the employees. When on Feb 24 the strike started one of the former Presidents of PC Workers Union, Arif, managed to join the occupying 250 workers. Arif’s entry had a huge uplifting effect for the occupiers, now they had an experienced comrade. However the management spotted Arif and asked Security Officer Nasir to remove Arif, Nasir refused and tendered resignation and has left PC. Similiarly when the occupation began the union invited the contractual workers in protest outside PC many joined. Next, of the security men filmed the protestors and soon one of the contractual workers was called for explanation and PC managment asked Maha Enterprise to sack him and he was. This was done to create example for other contractual workers. Some contractual workers say that they are waiting for the union to prove its strength and if they managed to get the 4 reinstated then they will come out again.

Therefore for the struggle to enforce an effective strike the contract workers have to join the permanent unionized workers.

It is clear that despite the occupation and strike by PC Workers Union permanent workers the PC hotel continues to function without any interruption thanks to the owner Hashwanis and Maha Enterprise breaking yet another law ie the right for temporary workers to become permanent after 6 months of service by continuing to have them as scabs for the past 9 years!

The struggle of PC workers is critical to the working class confidence. The media boycott continues though some channels like right-wing Haq and moderate Hum and Radio FM103 have interviewed the union leaders in the past 2 days.

Somehow the struggle for PC workers continues to involve a tiny fraction of other section of working class. The PC Workers Solidarity Committee exists but continues to have its meeting without involving those outside their own loop. One such meeting is taking place on Wednesday, where and what time we will let you know soon.

Meanwhile if you are in Karachi just stop by at the camp outside and express your solidarity or donate whatever you can to help the strikers. Also sign the petition prepared by Adaner, Abira, Madiha and others which is here http://www.petitiononline.com/5tgb7ujm/petition.html

For details of the strike you may visit the Intl Socialists Pakistan website www.worldtowinpk.net and for a detailed analysis of the impact of PC and other working class struggles read the recent issue of Intl Socialists monthly Socialist (Urdu) here http://tinyurl.com/ydyf2ob