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KARACHI: “Currently only one to three per cent of the 60 million workers in Pakistan are organised under trade unions. There aren’t any proper unions in banks, colleges and universities. Leave alone the workers, they don’t even have student unions in educational institutions anymore,” said Karamat Ali, secretary of the National Labour Council (NLC).

He was addressing a press conference on Wednesday called by NLC at the press club to demand union and collective bargaining rights for all workers one day ahead of the national-level referendum in Wapda.

“The Trade Unions Act of 1926 even allowed the people not in uniform within the armed forces to form unions. The state is to give people their rights, which both the public and private sectors should follow,” he said.

“Since the All Pakistan Wapda Hydroelectric Workers Union under the collective bargaining agreement [CBA] is the biggest union around today, we appeal that all workers of Wapda vote for CBA on Thursday,” he urged.

“CBA’s success will be against privatisation. National companies should not be privatised,” he pointed out, adding that at least there was a referendum in Wapda while referendums were still pending at organisations such as the Karachi Port Trust, Port Qasim Authority, Sui Southern Gas Company, Pakistan Railways, etc.

The convener of Sindh Labour Solidarity Committee, Habib­uddin Junaidi, also said that there are a lot of hindrances preventing labour from joining trade unions. While announcing his support to the All Pakistan Wapda Hydroelectric Workers Union, led by Khursheed Ahmed and Abdul Latif Nizamani, he said Pakistan is obliged to take measures to remove all hindrances in provision of the right to join trade unions and collective bargaining under eight core labour conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

“Pakistan is obliged to implement 27 international conventions including the key eight core labour conventions under Generalised System of Preferences [GSP],” he said.

Mahboobur Rahman of All Pakistan Wapda Hydroelectric Workers Union said that there were certain elements which do not want the workers to unite. “And still we have won the referendum five times already. We are also confident of victory for a sixth time tomorrow,” he said.

Liaquat Sahi, secretary general of the Democratic Worker Federation of the State Bank of Pakistan, meanwhile, said that trade unions needed to be national-level unions instead of provincial or local-level unions. He demanded the abolishment of third-party contract system, which, he said, was also against the Constitution.

Published in Dawn February 2nd, 2017