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LABOUR leaders and civil society activists speak at the KPC on Wednesday.—White Star
LABOUR leaders and civil society activists speak at the KPC on Wednesday.—White Star

KARACHI: Civil society and labour organisations voiced on Wednesday their support to the Port Qasim dock workers who have been holding a sit-in in front of the Karachi Press Club (KPC) for the last 107 days.

The workers union of Port Qasim is demanding provision of all the labour rights under the Regulation of Employment Act of 1974. The dock workers have not received salaries from the Chinese companies at Port Qasim for many months now. The rights of these workers are not accepted by the Chinese companies which have been allocated two berths, number three and four, by the Port Qasim Authority (PQA), it was said.

“The Chinese companies are denying the Port Qasim dock workers their rights. How will they feed their families, how will they send their children to school, how are they to live without an income?” said Karamat Ali, executive director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler), while speaking at a press conference at the KPC. He also urged the authorities to rehire the workers they might have fired.

After completing 107 days of a sit-in, they will hold a ‘big’ rally today

He said that the circumstances of the dock workers had forced them to come out and protest, which was their fundamental right. “And they should be commended on the way they have been protesting here outside the KPC so peacefully for so many days,” he said, adding that they had recently also decided to head to Islamabad to hold a sit-in there in front of parliament, which civil society had talked them out of for the time being.

“Instead they along with trade unions, labour leaders and human rights activists will stage a large rally of workers from Regal Chowk, Saddar, to the KPC on Thursday in support of the genuine demands of the dock workers of Port Qasim,” he said.

Hussain Badshah, the secretary general of the Port Qasim Workers Union, said that they did not even burn effigies during their 107-day sit-in outside KPC. “All we ask for is our salaries to be paid to us. Our protesting has triggered talks with the authorities but nothing seems to be coming out of these talks, so our protest continues,” he said.

Nasir Mansoor of the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) showed his disappointment over the attitude of the authorities with the poor workers. “With Pakistan doing so well in trade, be it a Chinese company or any other, it should not overlook labour laws and rights. They should follow international standards.”

Saeed Baloch, secretary general of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, suggested an environment assessment of berths three and four, which happen to be part of the coal terminal.

Habibuddin Junaidi said that Pakistan’s trade unions saw the struggles and work of the dock workers as symbolic as they have been there from day one when Port Qasim started its operations in 1981.

Advocate Shumaila Hussain Shahani said that civil society considered the dock workers’ struggle for their rights very important. “The government too should see how they are being deprived of their rights, and how unjustly they are being dealt with,” she said.

Manzoor Razi of Railway Workers Union and Liaquat Sahi of Democratic Workers Federation, State Bank of Pakistan, also spoke.

Published in Dawn, January 10th, 2019

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