The workers occupation of the basement of the Pearl Continental Hotel Karachi is now in its tenth day, yet there is no end in sight to the stand off. It should be made clear that this is not a strike as initially reported. Most of the workers who are involved in the occupation are working their shifts as normal, but instead of going home after a day of hard work, they go down to the basement.
Their aim is to make sure that the four union leaders who the management is trying to fire are not forcefully removed from the premises. If the workers leave the building then the management can physically stop them from returning and no longer have to worry about them. The management can then dismiss whoever they like whether or not they have the legal right to do so.
Yesterday (Thursday), there was a meeting between the union, the hotel management and the Sindh Labour Dept, but there was no outcome. The management (represented by PC Human Resources director Zia Jan) has asked for more time, so another meeting has been scheduled with Labour Dept for Monday. Though the workers understand that the management’s aim is to buy as much as time as possible in order to exhaust those involved in the occupation and weaken their strength.
I spoke on the phone to a few of the workers who are in the basement, and they tell me that despite the attempt to weaken their position they have resolved to stick it through together. Two workers earlier had to leave to receive medical treatment for various health problems and are currently admitted at the National Medical Centre. Meanwhile, there are two other workers (Liaqat and Said) who need treatment but are refusing to leave the occupied basement.
A major problem it seems is that the mainstream media in Pakistan has refused to touch the issue, so hardly anyone is aware of what is going on – even people who are staying or eating at the hotel have little idea about the struggle taking place. So there is no pressure on the hotel management to resolve the issue quickly.
Make a phone call
Here’s what you can do to help (at the very least). Call up Sohail Akbar Shah, the Secretary to the Chief Minister on 021-9202022 or the Labour Minister, on any of the numbers listed here, and let them know what is going on.