FAISALABAD: The owners of power-loom units on Jhang Road, including Sidhar, Dhandara and Seven-mile have alleged that some “labour leaders” are demanding monthly extortion money and threatening them of dire consequences if they failed to meet their demands.

The owners have brought the matter into notice of City Police Officer Afzaal Kausar, demanding action against such elements.

However, Labour Qaumi Movement (LQM), a body working for powerloom workers’ rights, alleged the allegations were part of the owners’ plan to silence workers’ demand for better wages.

Requesting anonymity, some power-loom owners told Dawn that their representatives had met the CPO a couple of days ago and informed him about the threats being hurled at them by some “labour leaders”.

They alleged that since the release of some LQM leaders from jail where they had been detained in connection with riots, the law and order condition at Jhang Road units had worsened.

They said gun-touting goons claiming to be the labour union office-bearers had also resorted to indiscriminate aerial firing at Sidhar to celebrate their leaders’ release.

The police and the district government were well aware of the situation, but no action had been taken against these elements, they added.

They said maintaining a peaceful environment at industrial units was necessary as the industry was feeding thousands of workers and their families, besides strengthening national economy.

On the other hand, LQM secretary general Aslam Miraj told Dawn that following the recent hike in prices of petroleum and daily-use items, the body had served a notice to the labour department with a demand for increase in workers’ salaries.

He said whenever the LQM raised voice for the workers’ rights, the millers started leveling such allegations to silence the just demands.

He said the LQM leaders were ready to sit with the millers at any platform so that their reservations could be allayed.

“If the miller provide us with solid evidence of extortion demand against any LQM leader, we will sack such person,” Mr Miraj added.

He said the district government and police officials knew that millers were not ready to get registered their factories with labour department because it would enable the workers to get social security benefits, including free medical treatment, death and marriage grants and other facilities.

Council of Loom Owners Association chairman Waheed Khaliq insisted millers were being told to pay extortion money or face consequences.

He said because of harassment, the loom owners had been finding it difficult to focus on their businesses.

He sought action against “criminals in the guise of labour leaders”, demanding a probe into the matter.

He alleged that so-called labour leaders were challenging writ of law in the Jhang Road units.

The CPO said police would ensure rule of law by any means and would also not allow anyone to usurp someone’s rights.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2015

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