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Indefinite Strike continues as government prepares for a crack down

The strike of Pakistan Telecommunications Company Ltd (PTCL) workers has entered its fifth day as negotiations failed once again.

Management is just playing hide and seek with the union leaders and workers on strike. They have adopted the strategy of tiring out the strike by engaging the unions in endless and meaningless negotiations. Now the government has deployed paramilitary forces in all the installations of PTCL. The police have also started the intimidation of the most militant activists of different unions, by conducting raids on their homes. Through these tactics management and the government want to force union leaders to accept the privatisation plan and sign an agreement with the management. The unions have refused to do this. In response it is now clear that the government is prepared to use force to crush and defeat the strike.

But this is not an easy road to follow for the government. An attack on striking workers can trigger the complete shut-down of the telecommunication systems, which will not only affect the phones lines but also mobile phones, internet and government phone lines. Part of the reasoning of the military-led government in attempting to crush the strike is to show other unions and workers that they cannot be forced to make concessions to workers simply by going on strike. The government does not want to show any weakness to the working class. So that is why the government has not made any agreement with the unions.

However, an all out attack could not only lead to a complete shutdown of the telecommunications system but could spark wider unrest amongst the population who are already living on the edge of extinction because of price rises and widespread poverty arising out of the policies of the Musharraf regime

Workers’ Morale
Telecommunication workers are ready to face state repression and a crackdown. They have said they will never accept privatisation. Striking telecommunication workers have already started to form committees at a local level to continue the organisation of the strike and defend themselves against state repression and arrests. They are also collecting the funds for bail payments and legal cases. The mood is very militant and radical. They want to fight this decisive battle to the end.

This strike is the biggest challenge and resistance to the $1.7 billion privatisation plan of the Musharraf regime. It is also the biggest industrial battle against the present regime since the 2002 general elections. The struggle has also become an inspiration for many public sector workers and unions.

Telecom workers have refused to accept the management’s proposal to call off the strike in return for financial benefits. The management offered them a 20% increase in the wages and some other concessions if the unions called off the strike. Workers have unanimously rejected the offer.

The question of solidarity has become very important in this situation. The messages sent by different unions, political parties and youth organisations as a result of an appeal for solidarity and protest letters by the Committee for a Workers International and its affiliated organisations and parties has had a big effect on the morale of the workers. The solidarity campaign launched by TURCP in Pakistan has also picked up momentum. All the main unions and workers organisations have announced their support for this strike. The next 24 – 48 hours will be very crucial and could decide the fate of this strike.

The TURC-P therefore appeals for more protest letters and solidarity messages.

Please send protests demanding:
-the immediate withdrawal of all paramilitary forces from PTCL depots and an end to police raids on the homes of trade union activists,
-no further repressive action to be taken, and
an end to the privatisation of PTCL

Send to:
Junaid Khan, President PTCL, president@ptcl.com.pk
M.Shahzad Sadan, Senior Vice President PTCL, sevphr@ptcl.com.pk
Awais Leghari Minister Telecom and Information Technology, minister@moitt.gov.pk and aleghari@moitt.gov.pk

Please send copies to:
cwi@worldsoc.co.uk and
turcpakistan@yahoo.com

Please also send solidarity letters supporting the strike to:
turcpakistan@yahoo.com
with copies to cwi@worldsoc.co.uk

Khalid Bhatti

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