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Mayday Message from Pakistan Trade Union Federation

April 29, 2013

This year the 127thMay Day is being observed amid a deepening capitalist crisis and social turmoil all over globe. The struggle aimed at improving the working hours of labors has now become a drive to slay the dragon of capitalism for good. This struggle of working class is becoming the only option and hope for ensuring a collective prosperity of mankind and making this world a cradle of peace and harmony, because the imperialism since its birth has given people only hatred, hunger, diseases, environmental pollution, bloodletting and wars. The history of the capitalism is replete with these crimes.

Like past the crisis of capitalism is also deepening with every passing day, casting its negative impacts of social, economic and political spheres in every region. The countries of Europe and North America in general and southern European countries of Italy, Spain, Portugal , Cyprus and Greece in particular have been trapped in this economic quagmire and the biggest project of imperialism of last century – unity and survival of the European Union – is on the stake. The spillovers of the unprecedented economic crisis of developed industrial countries have entered Asia, Africa and Latin America, tumbling their economies and upsetting their societies with chaos and economic decline. The weak and dying economies are giving birth to more crises with every passing day. Before an old problem could be fixed a new issue emerges, making the situation even more complex and critical. This is the inborn dilemma of imperialism, new face of capitalism that instead of settling issues it creates bigger and more critical issues, making matters worse.

It is logical that the imperialist countries impose wars in a bid to seek rid of these crises. In this regard we see imposing on poor nations of a prolonged, unending, declared and undeclared third world war. Occupying the natural resources of nations, especially fuel resources and lands with use of brutal force is now an open secret. The United States of America, Europe and now China have, in some cases with consensus and in few cases with use of individual force, have occupied some Asian countries besides the continent of Africa having important geopolitical importance and immense natural resources. In this regard ethnic, sectarian and religious hatreds are being purposefully fanned to continue the bloodbath of innocent people. In some cases where there existed effective and strong governments and economies having some ability to resist coercion, they were vanished with the use of naked force. Congo, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Iraq are some examples in this regard. The states of Gulf have virtually become American client states. Turkey houses American military bases. The wealth of central Asian states is directly under control of imperialist powers. Due to its important geostrategic location and immense mineral resources the capitalist countries targeted Afghanistan and through conspiracies first blood bathed it’s “peoples’ April revolution” and now this country is under the American yoke that occupies this nation, leading military forces of some two dozen countries. The same fate is being now suggested for Iran, Syria and North Korea.

The economies of various countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America are fully dependent on the global capitalist system and the economic crisis in the center of capitalism has further deepened the crises in these nations. In Pakistan also the ongoing economic crisis is linked to this phenomenon. Here from the military dictatorship era of General Musharraf to the expected elections for a new government the economic experts of World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) have been given a free hand to continue implementation of their dictated economic policies and the situation is likely to continue in future as well. It is not surprising that these policies have poisoned the lives of people especially the working class, as it was the logical outcome of these anti-people strategies. The floodgate of unemployment has been wide opened by opening the local market for foreign-made goods. Liberal incentives given to big landlords and industrialists commanding immense “means of production” have unveiled the hollowness of local economy. In the field of agriculture the economic efficiency has already been halted. Millions of farmers are facing the worst poverty despite of steep rise in prices of wheat, paddy, cotton and other agricultural produces. The result is frequent suicides and mass migration to big towns and cities, giving birth to new social and cultural crises.

Ravages of rains and floods of previous years have further multiplied the suffering of peasants and farmers and they have been facing immense hardships in repaying loans of their landlords. In Pakistan both industrial workers and farm labors are facing even worse conditions as compared to the plights of the Chicago workers. For them there are no fixed work hours. The production capacity of machines has improved thousand times due to constant modernization but the working conditions of Pakistani factories and workshops are pathetically unsafe and inhuman. Last year, in Karachi, the largest city of the country, more than 300 workers perished in a garment factory fire, which shows that the workers of this largest industrial city are no more than a modern day slave, deprived of all basic legal rights.

In the industrial and commercial organizations not only the economic rights of labors have been usurped but also their political and constitutional rights which they should have enjoyed under different national and international labor laws. Illegal labor contracting system “ Thekedari” is a poison tipped dagger in the back of semi-dead Pakistani labor movement. The labor department and labor courts have been virtually converted into slaughterhouses where capitalists and government bureaucracy sell the bodies of half-alive labors. The social security institutions like Employees’ Old Age Benefits Institution (EOBI) and Workers’Welfare Board instead of facilitating workers have become a handy tool of corrupt bureaucracy and fake labor leaders to loot and plunder the funds meant for workers’ wellbeing.

It is a part of national history that the labors and peasants of Pakistan have been used as the cannon fodder in the agitations against military regimes; however, whenever democracy is restored its benefits instead of trickling down to workers, farmers and common employees remained limited to rich classes sitting in parliament and judges of the court system. Its living example is frequent raises in salaries and perks of members of assemblies and judges of courts during the tenure of past government, when the real income of workers constantly nose-dived due to inflation and price hike. Presently there are more than 54million workforce in Pakistan, about 29percent of national population, vital force for the production process, but the ruling elite and their political parties have no solid strategy to solve their issues. These political parties are silent on the issues like the rights to form the labor unions, state guarantees for basic rights of education, healthcare and housing, end to cruel contract labor system and the legal labour rights for the informal sector workers, particularly farm labors, peasants, home-based women workers and labors working in different Export Processing Zones (EPZ). During the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) era  in Punjab a total imprisonment of 490 years was handed by an anti-terrorism court to the power loom workers of Faisalabad for their dare to form a labor union, while in Sindh province labor union leaders of Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) and Power Loom Workers Union were booked under the Anti-Terrorist Act (ATA) and arrested during the tenure of the allied government of Pakistan Peoples’ Party Parliamentarian (PPPP), Muttahida Quami Movement  (MQM) and Awami National Party (ANP). Imran Khan, the leader of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) with a slogan of ‘Tsunami’ is running his election campaigning in the private jet of an industrialist whose own sugar mills is the worst example of snatching the basic rights of workers. Moreover, one of his party leaders is a ‘spiritual leader, whose peasants are depicting the picture of slave-peasants of the 15th century. 

In this grim scenario, if the election manifestoes of major political parties are reviewed, it would be seen clearly that all political parties including PPPP, PML-N, PTI, MQM and ANP have favored the privatization instead of improving the working of public sector entities. The PML-N, PTI, MQM and ANP have kept a mum on the issue of bringing the millions of labors working in informal sector including farm labors and home-based female workers in the fold of labor laws. The same MQM and PTI are self-professed champions of being the real representatives of 98percent masses and harbingers of a change. They even failed to include the point of minimum wages in their electoral manifestoes.  Moreover, all major political parties including the PPPP, PML-N, PTI, ANP and MQM have shown traditional apathy to the vital issue of workplace safety of workers and their healthcare. In the backdrop of recent rise in industrial accidents in Pakistan and Bangladesh, the political parties should have included this issue on high priority basis in their electoral manifestoes and recognizing the ILO Convention for Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) 155, 161 and 187 announced to make laws as per their recommendations so as to ensure safety and healthcare of workers at work place.

The PML-N that talks about the rule of law and justice in its 116-page electoral manifesto has spared just 12 lines for its policy regarding labors which shows its lack of interest to the issues of workers, while on the rights of farmers and peasants its manifesto is totally silent.

The same goes for the manifesto of PTI which even taking a step forward in labor-enmity has mentioned legalizing the lethal “Thekidari Nizam” (contract labor system). This party with slogan of change is silent on the issues of land reforms, while announcing to invest the pension funds of labors in capital market its has left the life earnings of labors on the mercy of capitalists’ greed. This party has kept a mum on the basic issues of labor inspection, registration of factories, minimum wages, profit-sharing by workers and the right of workers to form labor unions. This party also does not talk about giving labors and peasants due representation in assemblies.

Though the PTI has criticized the way in which KESC, Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL), Habib Bank Limited (HBL), Allied Bank Limited (ABL) and several electricity distribution companies were privatized, but avoided to declare ending privatization process to solve these issues. It with the pledge to constitute an independent privatization commission has virtually announced its being an anti-worker party. In the election manifesto it talked about piling up modern arms in the name of strong defense, and instead of choosing raise in wages it supported increasing military budget, unveiling its anti-worker priorities.

MQM since long has remained part of different military and elected governments, and its claims of having representation of Karachi, the largest industrial city of Pakistan; however, on the worst plights braved by industrial workers of the city this party remained tight-lipped. This attitude is evident in its manifesto which pays mere lip-service to the issues of workers. Some tall claims to facilitate the labors are about those rights which have already been obtained by them. This shows the ignorance of this party about the labor laws. It has pledged to make monitoring boards in industrial units, structure of proper wages, health insurance, old age benefits, disability pension, and housing facility after retirement, all already allowable under the existing laws. This party is silent on the issue of minimum wages and also reluctant to talk about the Contract Labor Systems and making laws as per ILO Conventions on Occupational Safety and Health at work place. The attitude of this party on the issues of KESC and PTCL privatization shows it stands in the row of other political parties regarding enmity to workers. Its silence on the legal rights of millions of workers of informal sector indicates that basically it is a party of status quo, wanting to strengthen the prevailing monetary system with some cosmetic changes.

Though the PPPP has announced some schemes for welfare of workers in its manifesto, but there is no reason left to believe in its promises, because during last five years it led the governments in the Center, Sindh and Balochistan and also shared Punjab coalition government for some time and remained an important ally in Khyber-Pakhtunkhuwa government but miserably failed to bring a remarkable improvement for the workers. If today in Pakistan the rightwing capitalist-friendly parties are getting popularity it is due to the dismal tenure of the PPPP-led government which hardly hit the labor and peasant class and snatched all hopes of betterment from them.

The same applies to other political parties who failed to present their clear stance on the problems of millions of workers. If one analyses the advertisement blitz of these political parties on television and in print media the voice of labor is seen unheard.

It does not end with this farce but the majority of these parties have allotted party tickets to people and families that belong to feudal lords, capitalists, Pirs, Nawabs and elites. This proves that the leaderships of these parties mainly belonged to the classes occupying factories, mills, farms and natural resources, while labors working in their mills and peasants and Haris tilling their fields are deprived of their basic rights. One thing is common among the owners of the  means of production, i.e., factories, mills and farms, irrespective that they belong to PPP, PML-N, Awami National Party, MQM, Jamait Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) or the self-professed champion of change Imran Khan’s party PTI, that labors have to work for more than eight hours a day in their factories and organizations. They do not pay wages as per labor law, their workers do not possess appointment letters, and they are not registered with social security institutions. Their mills are run on contract labor system where the rights of making labor unions and Collective Bargaining Agents (CBA) are not recognized. The leaders of these parties who own big farmlands depict a cruel Pharaonic mentality, whose millions of Haris, peasants and farm labors know nothing about their legal rights including the right to form labor unions and social security cover.

It is true that democracy historically is the creation of industrial era and its first step is the rights of union making at workplace. Though this right is there in legal books, but the ruling elite irrespective of their political affiliation is not ready to recognize it. Today in Pakistan hardly 3% workers enjoy their right of union making, and just 5percent of them are registered with social security institutions though the majority of them do not posses cards of these institutions. Only 4percent of workers posses written appointment orders and just 5percent workforce get the minimum wages as announced by the government, while 95% factories are not registered under Factory Act of 1934 and have been running illegally.

Do the political leaders like Asif Ali Zardari, Nawaz Sharif, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Asfandyar Wali, Altaf Hussain, Imran Khan and others who want to get rule with the vote of workers are ignorant of the fact that their ticket holders and party office-bearers are the owners of industrial units and agricultural lands, while their workers and land labors do not posses their basic democratic rights of forming unions, getting minimum wages and working for fixed hours. When the basic units of democracy, i.e. factory and farm workers, are devoid of their democratic right, could true democratic values survive and strengthen in this society. It is a bitter fact that the usurpers of the basic right of workers are not only local leaders of these parties but also they occupy their higher offices. Therefore, it is a high time of a honest soul searching for the working class that how these bourgeoisie parties when elected could deliver for labors when their leaders and representative themselves are the worst exploiters of workers, peasants and  Haris. How these elements could bring any social change? It is a cruel truth that those people who raise slogans to redress their wounds themselves are their bitter tormentors. The basic production means of factories, mills and farmlands are private properties of these ruling families and they maximize their wealth exploiting the collective “Surplus Labour” of these workers, haris and employees, establishing news mills and factories and extending their fields and farm to become even richer. To safeguard this wealth and capital they form their own political parties in the name of serving the masses and slap them on the masses. To get rid of them it is imperative for the millions of workers of mills, workshops and farms to establish their own class-based entities, i.e. labor organizations, Hari-Kissan committees, associations of employees and other organizations and make them organized and finally establish their own nationwide class based political party and initiate struggle for the collective ownership of means of production, it means socialization of the wealth.

Such movements are working not only in Pakistan but also the whole world, because it is the bitterest truth of human history and the basis of all socioeconomic injustices that the all human beings take a collective part in developing the means of production and producing wealth but its ownership remains in the hands of a few people and families. When all people take a collective part in the process of production then the ownership of the means of production should also remain collective. Only this could bring the international crisis of capitalism to its logical end. It would end the imperialism and its reasons for warmongering. It would end the occupation of the wealth of nations, ethnic and regional conflicts, expansionism, bloody wars and massacres. The struggle for the survival of mankind and supremacy of human labor over capital initiated with the blood of Chicago workers in the year 1886, today with a renewed aspiration and vigor is harbingering a new dawn for mankind which would break with this continuing conscientious struggle led by well-aware and organized leadership of workers, peasants and working class people aimed at ending the supremacy of capital, and bringing the rule of workers.

Nasir A. Mansoor
Deputy General Secretary
National Trade Union Federation,Pakistan 726,Mashriq Center, Gulshan Iqbal 14, Karachi, Pakistan. Phone +9221-37075324 Fax +9221-3414-2149 Mobile +92300-358-7211 email;, website:

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