PC WORKERS

UPDATE V (Saturday, March 20th, 2010): VICTORY!

We’ve just received word about from activist Riaz Ahmad. He says:

PC Hotel occupation ended today at 9pm (on March 20). 1 of 4 activist restored. the other 3 will be restored in 10 days. Mangt forced to negotiate w union President Nasir. Jubiliation amongst occupying and protesting workers as they meet intside the hotel after 26 days of a brave occupation and strike by over 150 workes. Its a workers’ victory, said Ghulam Mehboob Secretary of PC Hotel Workers Union…. Ghulam said the management (Aslam Siddiqui, PA to Hashwani [owner of the PC]) was forced to negotiate with union President Nasir in the basement today where over 150 workers were occupying.

Its a small but significant victory for PC workers. The union remains intact, workers restored partially and above all the management was forced to negotiate which it has avoided since 2002 when it sacked over 300 union members, including office bearers of the union (except the 4 which were sacked on Feb 24 and now restored). The occupation goes down as a wonderful example for the working class in Karachi.
A fantastic step in the larger struggle. All issues are obviously not resolved, and we’ll bring you news about what’s next. Meanwhile, workers at the tire factory are still protesting.

UPDATE IV (Wednesday March 17th, 2010)

  • Send a fax to management directly, HERE (organized by the IUF).
  • Sign the petition HERE in solidarity with the PC workers. A hard copy has already been delivered to the Major charged with busting the PC union.
  • Please see further down on the page for facts about the PC workers strike.
  • Want to get involved? Download factsheet and petition HERE. Or, contact us at progpak@gmail.com

The protest announced below was held in front of the PC earlier on Wednesday. Here are a few pictures (via Nasir Mansoor, of NTUF):

UPDATE III (Monday March 15th, 2010)

Apologies for not updating this page for a week. There have been several developments in the fight, most of which are captured in the excerpts immediately following this paragraph. Negotiations failed once more, in the interim period. A solidarity protest went well, however, and more have been organized for the near future. The corporate media, of course, has maintained its zealous blackout; we received anonymous word that Karachi employees of GEO News have explicit instructions not to cover the case.

The bottom line is that there are still more than a hundred workers, in deteriorating health, demanding justice from one of the richest men in the country–and he, faithful to the soulless intransigence that underlies our political and economic system, is refusing to budge.

From an email sent by Abira on Sunday, March 14th:

The news is not good, folks.  Update Sunday evening, March 14: There are only about 140 people left in the basement in their 19th day of protest at the PC.  All those standing for peace need to come tomorrow.  PC will wear out the remaining few.  About 30 to 40 went home due to sickness or some other emergent reason and were not allowed to return to the basement.  PC is not budging from their position.  The workers’ current demands are: come to the negotiating table and do not fire the PC Four.  They are making video of them eating, apparently.  The thing is the PC workers get their food from the hotel, and they shoot videos of them eating to humiliate them that – you dare eat our food and then you talk about unions.  this is the bloody slace owner mentality from a hundred years ago – how dare you bite the hand that feeds you – quite literallly.  Forget what is lawfully your right – i.e. to unionize

And a more recent update, regarding the strategy for the near future being pursued by left forces in the city, sent Monday, March 15th (PM), by Nasir Mansoor, Secretary General of the National Trade Union Federation:

Representatives of 17 left wing parties and labor bodies have decided to fully support the struggle of PC worker and chalked out plan to put pressure on PC management to address the issue as per workers aspirations. The meeting was held at Labor Party Pakistan office today’s evening.

Decisions
*All the representatives will present at NIRC tomorrow morning at 10am where PC workers case will be proceeded.
*Parties and workers’ delegate will visit media centers and press them to give due coverage to the voice of PC workers. The same delegate will also meet with KPC, KBA ,SHCBA, PMA, KUJ office bearers for their support.
*All parties and trade unions will show their full strength in protest rally on Wed 17th March at 4pm started from PC Hotel.
*Press conference of all citizens representatives will be held on Thursday 18th March and will give three day ultimatum to PC Management to accept the demands of worker hunger strike will be started at Karachi Press club for indefinite period till the acceptance of demands.

Meeting was attended by LPP,SAS,AJM,APP,WPP,IS,CPP, NSF,NTUF,APTUF,PTUF,PWF,PWC,PYF,MLF,PMM and PCWU.

Next meeting on 18th March after press conference at KPC.All concerned individuals are requested to reach at NIRC Office near Metropole hotel to show solidarity with workers at very crucial case hearing.
Solidarity to our friends in struggle.

UPDATE II (Monday March 8th, 2010)

The latest round of negotiations has failed. There have been three negotiation sessions in the last 11 days. The workers have offered to end the dharna if PC reinstates the PC-Four and continues negotiations on the other demands. The PC management has refused. There are now approximately 200 workers in the basement. Some of those who left briefly to go home were disallowed from returning. A few others continue to work their shifts and then return to the basement to continue their strike. Food is scarce.

The PC has a staff of 550-600 people on daily wages. The management is hiring new people to cover the duties of the striking workers. Some say that workers from the Marriott Hotel across the street which the Hashwani Group also owns, have been brought over to cover duties at the PC. The Hashwanis are not budging from their position. However, the Human Resources Director as well as the General Manager appear to be softening on their stance, perhaps because they are worried about the increasing visibility of the strike. The police has so far not taken any action and even reportedly called it a “peaceful” demonstration, but workers fear that charge sheets have been drawn up for use in the future.

The next round of talks is scheduled for 2pm on Wed, Mar 10, 2010.

UPDATE I

Initial negotiations failed, and the latest round is set for Monday, March 8 at 3pm at the Labor Department. During prior talks, the PC management demanded that the workers put an end to the dharna first before further discussions. PC also attempted to force approximately 60 workers to sign an agreement saying that they will not take part in the strike, and that if they should do so, the PC has the right to sack the workers. All of them refused to sign the agreement.

The JUI (Jama’at-e-Ulema-e-Islam) has come out in favor of the workers. The party has issued an ultimatum that the PC re-instate the dismissed workers. The Karachi leadership of the JUI is also involved in negotiations with the PC management over this issue. We must ask: where o where are the secular parties?

FACTS OF THE PC WORKERS STRIKE

What’s going on at the Pearl Continental in Karachi?

150 workers of the Pearl Continental Hotel in Karachi have occupied the basement of the hotel since last week. The occupation began when four workers, all of them union activists who have worked at the PC for at least 20 years, were fired by the hotel which has a long history of union-busting. Following their dismissal, the four workers immediately occupied the basement of the PC Hotel backed by 150 of their colleagues who feel that these workers have been targeted due for their union activism. They are demanding that the Hashwani group which owns the PC abide by the law, give workers their rights and put an end to its aggressive union-busting practices.

Food has become scarce while they have been on strike and management has refused to allow outside deliveries to be made. The current Human Resources Director at the PC is a retired Major Zia Jan who came to the PC after busting a union at the Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC). Major Zia recently told the striking workers that they ought to be ashamed of themselves for fighting the PC. The management also brought someone from the Labor Department who accused the workers of engaging in an illegal dharna and told them they must stop immediately.

The workers are being filmed and monitored by security. They have been threatened with police action. The families of the workers who protested outside the hotel in solidarity have already been baton-charged by the police.

What are the workers demands?

1.    Give us our jobs back!
Firing of union activists while negotiations are ongoing is illegal.

2.    Recognize our union!
The courts already do. It’s time for the PC to abide by the law.

3.    Come to the negotiating table!
The PC refuses to negotiate the charter of demands. The 2002 and 2006 demands are still pending.

What’s the history of the workers struggle at the PC?

The PC workers’ struggle has been going on since 2001.  In the wake of the post-9.11 slump in business, owners of the PC Hotel, the Hashwani Group, began aggressively union-busting, slashing workers salaries and provident funds and even firing those who protested. 300 workers were sacked. PC then accused four workers—all union activists—of starting a fire in the hotel and had them locked up for 2 months in a secret prison in Karachi. They were acquitted in court, but the Hashwani Group attempted to fire them anyway on false charges of absenteeism. The workers got a stay order from the court, one of them in 2002 and the other three in 2006. That order was cancelled in Feb 2010. Before a notification of the cancellation had even been issued, the workers were fired.

The PC-Four have a long history trying to get the PC to recognize the workers union so that they can bargain for their rights and fair wages. The workers who clean the rooms, make the meals and run the hotel only get Rs. 7800 per month for nine hour shifts each day–after they’ve been working there for at least 14 years. A one night stay at the PC costs Rs. 20,000. The Pearl Continental Hotel Workers Union is already recognized by the courts, but the PC management refuses to accept the union or come to the negotiating table. The union, which is recognized by the workers of the PC as their bargaining unit, has issued two Charter of Demands, the standard list of workers demands which unions issue every two years to the employer as a starting point for negotiations. Both the 2004 and the 2006 Charter of Demands were never resolved as the PC failed to come to the negotiating table. Instead, the management of the PC constantly harassed the workers trying to terrorize them into rejecting their own union.

Why are the PC management’s actions illegal?

Pakistan’s labor law says that while negotiations about union demands are ongoing, the employer is NOT allowed to transfer or fire workers. All four workers are activists of a legally recognized union, the Pearl Continental Hotel Workers Union. The PC has chosen not to recognize the union and refuses to bargain or come to the negotiating table.

What evidence is there that the PC is violating workers’ rights and union-busting?

PC’s anti-union rampages have even been the subject of an investigation by the UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO). The investigation concluded that “grave violations of union rights had been committed by the hotel management and local authorities.” ILO requested the government to fully investigate the detention and take other actions. The NGO, PILER, the International Food Union and the Labor Party of Pakistan (LPP) have all supported the workers.

The current Human Resources Director at the PC is a retired Major Zia Jan who came to the PC after busting a union at the Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC). Major Zia recently told the striking workers that they ought to be ashamed of themselves for fighting the PC.

Who are the PC-Four?

Mohammad Noor, President of the PC Hotel Workers Union
Job at PC: Storekeeper since 1987
He has a family with 4 children to support.

Shah Nawaz, Vice President of the PC Hotel Workers Union
Job at PC: Houseman for 20 + years
He has a family with 5 children to support.

Rao Mohammad Ashfaq, union activist of the PC Hotel Workers Union
Job at PC: Store cleaner for 21  years
He has a family with 4 children to support.

Ubaid ur-Rehman, union activist of the PC Hotel Workers Union
Job at PC: Waiter for 20 years
He has a family with 3 children to support.

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