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Pearl Continental Karachi Union 'Walk for Justice' in Year 6 of Struggle

Posted to the IUF website 11-Dec-2006

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The Pearl Continental Hotel Workers' Solidarity Committee organized its second annual Walk for Justice this year on December 9, in the context of events surrounding the celebration of International Human Rights Day 2006 (December 10). As with last year's demonstration, representatives from a broad spectrum of trade union, political and professional organizations and NGO activists took part in the march down Karachi's Chundrigar Road, waving banners and distributing pamphlets.

The struggle at the Karachi hotel has now entered its sixth year - with no lessening of the union members' and supporters' determination to win. The fight for union rights began in September 2001, when management announced that due to a decline in bookings it would sack all casual and temporary workers and eliminate one day of paid work per week for permanent staff. The union called for negotiations, but management ignored the request and proceeded to fire 350 casual workers. The union was not informed, nor were the dismissed workers. The dismissal letter was published in a daily newspaper on November 8, and the workers were barred from entering the hotel when they reported for work the next day.

More than 40 permanent employees, including union officers, were then brutally sacked for defending the rights of the casual workers. What began as a union campaign to defend the rights of casual hotel employees escalated quickly into an all-out management attack on the existence of the union and the physical well-being and safety of its members and officers. Management has used threats, police violence, arbitrary detention, firings and the threat of dismissal in an effort to intimidate the hotel employees and pressure them to abandon their union. In 2002, management arranged for leaders of the union to be falsely accused of crimes. Three union leaders spent more than two months in prison without a single piece of evidence ever being produced.

In 2003 the United Nation�s International Labour Organization (ILO) determined that grave violations of union rights had been committed by the hotel management and local authorities. The ILO instructed the government to fully investigate the incidents of police detention, violence and harassment of union members and report back. The ILO called for action to reinstate the unjustly dismissed union members and officers.

The hotel management, the Pakistani government and the local authorities have refused to comply with this ruling. No reinstatements or independent investigations have occurred.

Workers at the Karachi and other Pearl Continental Hotels continue to fight for justice. In July this year, the Pearl Continental Hotel Employees Union in Lahore won its 2.5 year campaign for the official reinstatement of the unfairly dismissed union president. The PC and other hotel unions have received strong backing in their struggle against rampant rights violations from the IUF-affiliated Pakistan Hotels, Restaurants, Clubs, Tourism, Catering and Allied Workers� Federation, the national federation formed in 2005.