Today is the third day of strike action by workers at the Master Tiles factory in Gujranwala. After more than 15 years of repression, torture and violation of labour laws at the hands of the owners and management, workers finally managed to get their union registered by the Labour Department.
However, the owners reacted immediately by sacking more than 400 workers of a total of 1500. Management are demanding that the workers should cancel the registration of the union and only then they can enter the factory gate. All the office bearers of the union were also among the 400 sacked workers.
The sacked workers of started their peaceful protest outside the factory gate on the morning of Saturday, 25th November. A few hours later workers inside the factory joined them in protest and a total strike stopped production.
The police was also called by the owners to harass the workers but they remained steadfast. They said that belonging to a union is their right and now they cannot abandon the struggle. Later false allegations of theft and damaging property were registered at the local Police Station in which all the office bearers of the union were nominated while 50 unidentified persons were also included.
The police also threatened the workers that their leadership will be arrested and jailed if they do not return for duty. Management also used their influence in the District Administration through Commissioner of Gujranwala and other officials to sabotage the strike, but despite all these threats the workers are standing firm.
In the manufacture of Tiles natural gas is an important raw material, others being sand and clay. The owners have been accused of theft of gas by the gas department. The theft of natural gas, which is provided by government, is common in most industries in Pakistan. The owners never pay their bills and get by through corruption in government departments.
The Master group of industries is also manufacturing ball point pens, Pampers, ceramics, sanitary fittings, bathroom accessories and other items in Gujranwala. In all these industries no registered unions are present despite there being a labour force of many thousands. The growing profits of this group and those of other industrialists is due to the extreme exploitation of labour which is working without basic safety arrangements.
Chemicals used in Master Tiles provoke breathing and eye problems for the workers, who have no security measures to protect them. Social security, that is compulsory for all workers, is not granted to them. No additional wages for over time are given. Safety arrangements for fire and other hazards is not adequate. Many other aspects of labour laws are also not adhered to in the factory.
This is why management never wants representative unions of workers be established in the factory.
The Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign is supporting the workers in this struggle. Comrades Adam Pal, Umar Rasheed, Nasir Butt, Irfan Shah, Zahid Baryar, Sibghat ullah, Awais, Gulzada, Dr. Umar Naseer, Ashraf Bhutta Advocate and others visited the protesting workers and extended complete solidarity with them. The PTUDC has also held protests in Rawalpindi and Kasur in solidarity with the workers of Master Tiles.
A leaflet by the PTUDC was also distributed on t first day of the strike which was appreciated by the workers. On the second day a leaflet addressing the workers of other factories in the vicinity was also distributed. In this leaflet the workers of Master Tiles appealed to other workers to register unions in their own factories and support the striking workers. This leaflet was also appreciated and workers vowed to get organized in their factories against the repression on the part of the factory owners and government officials. The leaflet also warned against pocket (yellow) unions and traitors in the guise of labour leaders who sell these unions to the owners and exploit the workers.
We appeal to the working class of world to support the workers of Master Tiles in their struggle.