Pakistan: A victory of PTCL workers against the draconian measures of the Musharraf regime

The policies of the ruling class based on privatization, downsizing, and restructuring have made life hell for the working class. On the one hand the rulers are throwing the workers into the quagmire of joblessness and poverty and on the other hand they are involved in massive corruption and looting. And in a continuation of this looting and plundering, they are planning to privatize the Pakistan Telecommunication Corporation Ltd. (PTCL). As a result, thousands of workers will lose their jobs and will be thrown out without any notice or benefits from this organization.

The policies of the ruling class based on privatization, downsizing, and restructuring have made life hell for the working class. On the one hand the rulers are throwing the workers into the quagmire of joblessness and poverty and on the other hand they are involved in massive corruption and looting. And in a continuation of this looting and plundering, they are planning to privatize the Pakistan Telecommunication Corporation Ltd. (PTCL). As a result, thousands of workers will lose their jobs and will be thrown out without any notice or benefits from this organization. The total number of employees at PTCL is 60,000 out of which 7,000 are on contract. Workers can retire after 25 years of service and in the case of the “golden handshake” it is a minimum 10 years.

According to the management of the organization, the introduction of computers and modern machinery is the main reason for downsizing. Computers can do four times the work that a worker can do. So, in the management’s view, more than 50 percent of the staff are surplus, although with downsizing less than 30 percent of workers are expected to lose their jobs. PTCL is definitely under pressure from international financial institutions to push forward with downsizing.

On one hand, the management is firing the old employees in the name of schemes like “golden handshake”, but on the other hand it is recruiting new staff on a daily wages basis. Daily wages workers are performing the same job as regular workers, but they receive less salary and work without any job security. The tenure of the PTCL employees union finished in April 2000. The application for new referendum had been filed but no date was finalized. Due to the absence of any C.B.A with any trade union in PTCL there was no pressure on the administration from workers and their representative bodies.

The regime announced the date of the referendum and they tried their best to use their pocket union to win the referendum, which should have made the job easy for them. But the workers of PTCL revolted against these pro-imperialist policies through a ballot and the Pakistan Telecom Employees Union won the referendum due to their radical program. Immediately after the victory in the referendum PTEU submitted a charter of demands asking the administration to announce company scales immediately with effect from 01.01.1996, keeping in view the salaries of other good companies, day to day inflation and earnings of the organization.

Instead of approving the demands of the workers, the regime not only started unfair labor practices but also started multidimensional attacks on the union to crush it. At this moment the PTUDC stood shoulder to shoulder with the employees union in their struggle. The president of the PTUDC Comrade Manzoor Ahmad took the issue to parliament and exposed the draconian policies of the regime. “The Struggle” very frequently published interviews with prominent labour leaders of the union. Its aim was to expand the movement of the PTCL workers to other unions and organizations of workers and youth.

The union resisted the state attacks and kept on fighting against the regime in the courts as well as on the ground. They kept on struggling for the approval of their charter of demands but the regime did not understand the polite language of the workers.

On September 30, 2004 while addressing a workers’ meeting the Secretary General of PTCL Employees Union, Rana Mohammad Tahir, gave a notice to PTCL management that it should accept the demands of the workers within 14 days He warned the administration that strike action would begin on October 4, 2004 if the demands were not met. He also added that if the demands were not accepted the workers would go on complete strike and jam the whole communications system of the country on October 14.

Their demands were as following:

  • 1. The wages of PTCL workers should be increased by 15%.
  • .2. The employees should be given PTCL PAY SCALES
  • 3. The workers who deserve promotion should be promoted immediately
  • 4. The quota of the deceased workers should be restored
  • 5. The quota for the recruitment of children of on duty staff should be restored.
  • 6. The daily wages employees of telecom foundation should be regularized.
  • 7. The employees should be paid bonuses according to the proportion of the profit of the company.
  • 8. The medical facilities of the workers should immediately be restored.
  • 9. The fake cases against the C.B.A union should immediately be withdrawn.

Initially management and the regime took this as something routine. They were not the least concerned about these demands. This attitude turned the workers violent and the aggression and anger of the workers continued to increase. There was a good response to the strike call of the union. In many cities the workers participation in strike made the regime tremble and on the evening of October 12, the regime accepted all the demands of the workers and requested them to call off the strike.

It is a great victory for the workers of the communication industry in Pakistan and will strengthen the cause of labour. The workers still face many challenges ahead. The inevitable challenge of the workers is to resist the privatization policy of the regime.

The PTUDC will play a key role in support of the workers in their future struggle against the privatization.