KARACHI, July 25: The South Asian Labour Forum (SALF) Pakistan on Thursday demanded immediate release of Maruti Suzuki workers in India who had been arrested by the police last year and withdrawal of all cases registered against them by the administration.

Speaking at a press conference at the Karachi Press Club, executive director of Piler Karamat Ali, Mohammad Jaffar of the Muttahida Labour Federation, Manzoor Razi and Rehana Yasmeen said that Pakistani trade union leaders and human rights activists expressed solidarity with Indian workers.

They demanded unconditional reinstatement of the workers illegally fired from their jobs during this movement.

They also called for restoration of the bank account of the Maruti Suzuki Workers Union, India.

“Labour unions reserve their right to formulate their strategy for future struggle, protest and demonstration if the Indian government does not consider the appeal from labour unions,” they said.

They said that the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) had organised a meeting of the South Asian Labour Forum, Pakistan chapter on the issue of the Maruti Suzuki workers on 19 July in Karachi to send a solidarity note for this movement from Pakistan.

Leading trade union leaders who attended the meeting expressed unconditional support for the Maruti Suzuki workers’ struggle.

The participants in the meeting underlined the need of unity among all labour movements across the South Asian region.

It was also decided in the meeting that the SALF, the Pakistan chapter would organise a large-scale consultation meeting and a press conference as a part of the solidarity campaign.

The SALF Pakistan chapter had also announced a seven members committee to develop a strategy to extend support for the labour movement across the region. The committee agreed to raise funds to provide a token financial assistance to the movement in which all labour unions, labour rights organisations and like-minded individuals would contribute according to their capacity.

For this purpose the SALF committee announced to print the receipt vouchers for the contributors.

The Maruti Udyog Ltd was established in Gurgaon, India, in 1983. After its launch, the company soon became a symbol of automobile revolution in India.

Since its founding, the company experienced few problems with its labour force. In 1997 Maruti became predominantly government controlled.

Shortly thereafter, a conflict between the United Front government and Suzuki started.

On 18 July 2012, Maruti’s Manesar plant was hit by violence as workers at one of its auto-factories attacked supervisors and started a fire that killed a general manager of the company and injured 100 managers, including two Japanese expatriates.

A total of 147 Maruti Suzuki workers were arrested and remained in detention. About 546 permanent workers and some 1,800 contract workers were summarily dismissed.

Some of their demands are: immediate release of 147 workers detained in Gurgaon, as well as of the 11 detained in the Katihal jail; the police must also end the harassment of workers and their families; the constitution of an independent and impartial judicial inquiry to investigate the full scope of events that led to the industrial violence on July 18, 2012 and the full reinstatement of workers, whether permanent or non-permanent who were dismissed after the incident. —PPI

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