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Gas field privatization. Workers to shut down oil, gas fields across the country

Workers in oil and gas fields have decided to shut down all fields in Pakistan. The unions have called for an all-out, indefinite strike from November 17, if the government fails to halt the privatization. Oil and gas field workers organized country-wide demonstrations against the planned privatization of Qadir Pur gas field in Sindh. At the moment, workers are observing a daily two-hour token strike.

The PPP government announced the privatization of Qadir Pur gas field last month but the cabinet committee on privatization, under the chairmanship of the PPP Prime Minister has now formally agreed to the privatization of 37% of shares. This announcement was met with stiff resistance from the workers in this gas field, who immediately declared their opposition to the privatization. The workers have shown determination through continued daily protests and rallies. Chaudhary Akram, the president of the oil and gas development corporation (OGDC) union expressed his anger: “We will do whatever is possible to stop this privatization, from organizing strikes and demonstrations to the legal battle. This privatization has been announced by the party which claims to be the party of the masses and workers, but this party is attacking workers rights. This party has continued the policies of the Musharaf regime which are anti-worker and masses. People did not give a mandate to the PPP to sell out future generations. Since 1988, successive regimes have disposed of the country’s assets, for which people received nothing in return, except joblessness, hunger, corruption and poverty”.

Movement gaining momentum
The movement against the privatization of oil and gas fields has started to gain momentum. In the beginning, the workers of this gas field were fighting in isolation. Now Yusuf Raza Gillani this anti privatization movement is spreading to the other oil and gas fields of the country. Other trade unions and political parties are also joining in the struggle. There is widespread anger and opposition to this privatization in Sindh province. Even the pro-privatisation MQM is opposing this privatization, which is a clear sign that opposition is growing. This privatization has become the main issue in Sindh and all the writers, intellectuals and political commentators oppose it. The PPP government is isolated on this issue. The workers from the four oil and gas fields have joined the struggle and announced their support for an indefinite strike. The Sindhi nationalist parties have announced day of action on November 16. Various other trade unions have declared their support for the oil and gas workers struggle.

United action necessary
What is really needed to defeat privatization, neo liberalism and free market economic policies is united action by the working class. A call for a one day strike and mass demonstrations from all the major trade union federations, workers confederations and workers and mass organizations can force the government to halt this privatization. This would be a serious warning to the government to stop neo liberal attacks on the workers.

TURCP (Trade Union Rights Campaign), in which CWI members in Pakistan Socialist Movement play an important role, has already issued an appeal to trade unions to form a trade union action committee on a national level, to prepare for national action against privatization. The oil and gas field workers and unions have, thus far, showed great determination and courage to continue the struggle but this struggle will not be able to decisively defeat privatization in isolation. The trade union leadership from the rest of the country should immediately come forward and take practical steps to show their solidarity. TURCP is mobilizing support and solidarity for this important struggle.

Fazal Abbas, Trade Union Rights Campaign, Pakistan

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