No to privatisation: ‘The workers will be heard’

Political activists and unionists address conference against privatisation .


Amel Ghani April 08, 2015
Wapda Hydroelectric Workers Union leader Khurshid Ahmed addressing the conference. PHOTO:INP

LAHORE:


“We protested against privatisation on the streets, in market squares, even in the Capital, still the government has turned a deaf ear to our demands…As of April 15, we will start a tools-down strike. Our struggle against privatisation continues,” Khurshid Ahmed, general secretary of the WAPDA Hydroelectric Workers’ Union, said at a conference on Wednesday.


The conference – Anti-Privatisation Labour Conference – was organised by the Awami Workers Party at the Aiwan-i-Iqbal. Thousands of unionists and workers representing trade unions including the Wapda Hydroelectric Trade Union, the All Pakistan Trade Union Federation, the All Pakistan Workers Confederation, the All Pakistan PWD Workers’ Union, the Home-Based Workers’ Union and the Railway Workshop Union, among others, participated in the conference.

Addressing the audience, Ahmed said it was the government’s duty to hear the workers out. “The government has failed to fulfil its basic duty and has forced us to take to the streets,” he said.

Provision of electricity, gas, health services and education, among others, is a government’s responsibility, he said. “It’s about time that it accepts this rather than hand these duties over to the private sector.”

Farooq Tariq, general secretary of the AWP, said the government should take caution from the Sri Lankan government’s experience of trying to privatise electricity. “Their workers refused to work and the country blacked out…When you take away electricity, you take away a sign of life,” he said.



Tariq said the conference should serve as a warning to the government. “The policy to privatise state-owned enterprises will be thwarted by workers at every step.” He said the plan to privatise the Wapda was only the first step towards privatising all other national assets. “It is imperative that all workers unite.”

Addressing the participants, APTUF general secretary Rubina Jameel said, “We are gathered here to protest against the privatisation project which the government is bent on going ahead with. To those who say Pakistan’s trade union movement is dying, we will show them that they are wrong. We need to be committed across the board – the National Board Employees’ Workers’ Confederation, the Railway Workshop Union, the All Pakistan Wapda Hydroelectric Workers’ Union – we will come together and raise a thundering voice against privatisation.”

Abid Hassan Manto, president of the AWP, said that privatisation wasn’t simply about selling a few national companies to free up funds for the government to pay back loans. “It is an ideology rooted in capitalism which the government wholeheartedly ascribes to,” he said. Manto said this was the basis of their struggle. He said it was imperative that workers and labourers did not get alienated from the decision-making process. Manto also spoke against multinational companies and international lending organisations. “They will not ensure the development of our country… it is the workers themselves who will have to do push for it.”

Representatives of the All Pakistan Workers’ Confederation, and the All Pakistan Workers’ Union also spoke on the occasion and expressed solidarity with workers. They vowed to present a strong opposition to the government to prevent privatisation of state-owned enterprises.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 9th, 2015. 

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