Negotiations between the Pakistan Minister of Telecom & IT and Pakistani Telecommunications Ltd (PTCL) Unions’ Action Committee have failed to end a telecom all-out strike, involving 60,000 workers, which began on Thursday 26 April.
The leaders of the Action Committee said that the government is not serious about resolving the present crisis. “The minister threatened us and tried to force us to call off the strike. We will not bow down to these threats and will continue our strike until the government announces the cancellation of its privatisation plans,” said union leaders, as they came out from the Minister’s office. “If the government wants to see our commitment and fighting spirit, we will show them and continue our strike as long as they want.”
The unions demand an end to privatisation and improved pay and conditions.
Telecom workers want to close down the whole telecommunication services from tomorrow. If this succeeds, there will “be no dialling tones or phones ringing”.
“If they want to test what we are capable of doing, we will show them. They want to force us to take more militant action,” said angry telecom workers gathered at the main telephone exchange in Lahore.
The workers are so angry that even those in the union leadership that previously were pro-management are now frightened to betray the strike movement. Workers in different cities have strongly condemned any union leaders that sell-out the strike. Fear of a backlash from the strikers has forced the leadership to take a firm stand.
Management has again called on the unions to start negotiations at 7 00pm, this evening.
Nearly 4,000 workers are occupying the PTCL headquarters, and many other workers have said they will join them tomorrow, if negotiations fail.
The PTCL share on the stock market has lost 11 rupees. Its share fell from 76 to 65 rupees, today, and the stock market plunged 378 points. The market has lost nearly 1,000 points in the last three days. The PTCL has one of the largest companies listed on the stock market, with a volume share of 25%. If this strike continues for a few more days, the PTCL share, and stock market, will fall further. In this situation, the government is not in a position to prolong industrial conflict.
The government might decide to use repression and the security forces to break the strike. In that case, workers’ international solidarity for the Pakistan telecom workers will be vital for the success of the strike.
The Trade Union Rights Campaign – Pakistan (TURCP) has already launched a solidarity campaign in Pakistan to help the telecom strikers. Many trade union representatives have visited the strikers’ camps in Islamabad and in Lahore, following an appeal by the TURCP.
The TURCP is doing every thing possible to mobilise other unions in solidarity with the striking telecom workers.
Azad Qadri, Islamabad, and Qadoos Khan, Lahore