Pakistani working class begins to stir

Issue 

Pakistani working class begins to stir

By Farooq Sulehria

On May 5 Pakistani workers observed a two-hour strike at the call of the Pakistan Workers Confederation, which groups eight major federations.

The call was given by PWC under immense pressure from workers. The strike was against privatisation and down-sizing. Privatisation has already cost 67,000 workers their jobs, and another 200,000 jobs are at stake.

This was the first national level strike call since 1977. But that call was given by religious fundamentalists.

The May 5 strike was a complete success in some factories, but in the public sector was not that successful. The right-wing leaders of the PWC did not mobilise the workers because they did not want to invite the government's wrath.

This leadership mainly controls the banking and power sectors. However, in Lahore all the private sector factories observed the strike mainly because these factories have left-wing leadership.

The trade union movement is divided and fragmented. Only 6% of workers are unionised, excluding agricultural labour. There are more than 7000 registered unions and more than 1000 federations. The average union membership is 135.

The Labour Party of Pakistan participated enthusiastically in the strike. The LPP campaigned for a 24-hour strike. The strike was a step forward and has given confidence to the working class.

In the same week, the May Day was the biggest in four years. The mood was more radical; workers were angry.

[Farooq Sulehria is a member of the National Executive Committee of the LPP.]