FIGHTING PRIVATISATION AND
GLOBALISATION IN PAKISTAN
Trade Union Rights
Campaign – Pakistan
It’s 25 years since the Thatcher government
privatised British Telecom. Now Pakistan’s government, at the behest of the
World Bank, is attempting to privatise Pakistan Telecommunications. They
have met stiff resistance.
61 000 Pakistani Telecom
workers all-out strike against privatisation
The Musharraf government began an ambitious $1.7 billion
privatisation programme to sell off what remains of state owned industry.
The jewel in the crown for local and international big business is the
Pakistani Telecommunications Ltd (PTCL) which makes £323 million in profit
every year. If privatisation goes ahead 50% of the workforce could be
sacked. Workers who keep their jobs will lose the health and education
benefits they receive for themselves and their families. The phone system in
the rural areas, where the majority of the population lives in Pakistan,
will be decimated by new private owners because this section of the industry
is not profitable.
4th JUNE 2005 – Government Response:
In response to the strike on Saturday 4th June the Pakistani government and
managing director of the company withdrew their plans to privatise PTCL.
This is the first victory against privatisation in Pakistan and the longest public-sector strike in 36 years. Despite harassment by paramilitary police and the detention of some trade union leaders, telecommunication workers held their ground and refused to retreat on their demand for the withdrawal of privatisation of the company. The privatisation would have led to the sacking of 30,000 Telecommunications workers and severe attacks on wages and conditions.
font-family:Arial;color:black">The unions pointed out that shares in the company were expected to sell for $2.5 billion, whereas in fact they were worth double that figure. The strike drew major international support, as hundreds of messages from individuals, trade union branches and parties flooded into the PTCL offices and that of the Minister of Information Technology and Telecommunications in the government.
Not surprisingly the dispute re-ignited within days, as the government reneged on the deal. Over 1000 workers had been arrested and TU leaders pulled in for questioning. After almost three weeks of struggle against privatisation, most Pakistan Telecommunication (PTCL) workers have returned to work. This follows national leaders of the Employees’ Union, one of the unions in the nine-union strong Action Committee, signing a deal with the government.
font-family:Arial;color:black">General Musharraf’s semi-military regime, under ferocious international pressure from its imperialist backers, was desperate to break the workers’ opposition to privatisation, fearing that it could undermine the regime’s whole economic policy. They employed a combination of concessions and repression. The concessions were quite extensive, including a 30% wage increase, no redundancies for two years for PTCL workers employed before 1992, quotas for the children of retired PTCL workers, and leave encashment of £5-600 per worker. However, in return, the government demanded that the trade unions not only end this particular struggle against privatisation but also sign a deal not to oppose privatisation, any longer. It is likely that the company will be sold to Etisalat, the state-owned (!) telecoms company in Saudi Arabia.
font-family:Arial;color:black">61 000 workers struck in opposition to privatisation, a fantastic example for us in the UK. The bosses may have got what they wanted but at a massive cost. And who knows? -if the government can renege on their agreement the workers can do the same!
Trade Union Rights
Campaign – Pakistan