Police face off against protesting factory workers

Union leaders, workers object to 'maltreatment' of employees, threaten sit-in at assembly

​ Our Correspondent May 19, 2020
Union leaders, workers object to 'maltreatment' of employees, threaten sit-in at assembly. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: Hundreds of workers from a denim factory in Korangi Industrial Area protesting against the non-payment of their salaries on Tuesday morning were met with a baton charge and aerial firing from the police.

Blocking the traffic flow, the enraged protesters reportedly vandalised several cars and set fire to tyres and a bus. Police and Rangers arrived at the scene, while fire department officials doused the blaze. The police baton-charged the protesters and shot bullets into the air to disperse the crowd. One worker was reportedly injured in the incident.

The protesting employee claimed that the factory administration had not paid their dues and was repeatedly delaying doing do, even with Eidul Fitr approaching.

Korangi SSP Faisal Abdullah Chachar claimed that the protesters dispersed after successful negotiations between them and the factory management.

No change in sight

Meanwhile, labour leaders at another protest claimed that despite the promulgation of the Coronavirus Emergency Relief Ordinance and the Sindh government's notifications against the non-payment of wages and forced dismissals, no change has occurred.

Speaking at a protest organised by the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) at Habib Chowrangi in SITE on Tuesday, union members warned that if their demands were not met, they would stage sit-ins at the Sindh Assembly as well as the residences of industrialists and relevant government officials.

NTUF secretary general Nasir Mansoor stated that workers being forced to demand their legitimate rights was reprehensible. "Unfortunately, the relevant government departments, judiciary and political parties care only about the wellbeing of factory owners, traders and transporters, but they do not care about the basic rights of the millions of workers who drive the productive and economic wheels," he added.

Businesses unable to pay salaries due to lockdown

He further revealed that, at present, more than six million workers have been dismissed, while at least 40 per cent of the informal sector, including home-based workers, had lost their jobs.

Expressing sorrow at the clash between protesters and law enforcers in Korangi, Mansoor claimed that the police were protecting the interests of the capitalists by becoming party to industrial disputes. He added that it was ironic that the government had implemented several economic packages for industrialists but had not begun delivering aid to starving workers and their families.

"The growing lawlessness in industrial enterprises and blatant violation of labour laws in the face of this dangerous epidemic and economic crisis is forcing workers to resist and decide issues on the streets," claimed Rauf Textile Labor Union general secretary Babar Khan.

The protesters demanded that action be taken against the denim factory general manager and the area SHO for opening fire on unarmed workers. Furthermore, they asserted that factories must ensure the payment of wages and bonus to their workers before Eidul Fitr, while the forced dismissals of workers must be stopped and violators punished under the law.

Their other demands included increasing the minimum wage, doubling pensions, special aid packages for informal workers, budget changes and redirection of foreign loans towards welfare of citizens.


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