No more privatisation, say trade unionists

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Senior labour leaders and office-bearers of the country’s trade unions have demanded that the government should call off the privatisation plan of the remaining state-owned enterprises and corporations, as previous privatisations have resulted in heavy losses and increased unemployment in the country.
They also called for protection of labour rights in both private and public sector organisations and ensuring right to trade unionism as enshrined in the constitution of Pakistan.
The trade union leaders were speaking at a consultation on “Problems of Public Sector Organisations” organised by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) on Saturday.
They pointed out that over 460 public-sector industries, banks, utilities and service providers had been privatised since 1991, but the performance of almost all such units has deteriorated instead of improving and many establishments have closed down and thousands of workers were rendered jobless.
After privatisation, the new management of almost units started hiring employees on contract basis or through the third party employment system, usurping workers’ rights and weakening trade union movements in the country.
The performance of privatised corporations after the buyout has badly been affected and common people have also suffered because of the poor performance and inefficient services by these private sector organisations, especially in case of the Karachi Electric Supply Company, the PTCL and ghee and sugar mills.
The government sold ghee and sugar mills on the pretext that people would get these commodities at lower rates.
But these private sector companies in collaboration with other companies formed cartels and prices of sugar and ghee have increased manifold since then.
The performance of KESC is another example. Common citizens are suffering much more after the privatisation of the utility and the situation is becoming worse, they added.
The government had pledged that 90 percent of the amount from the privatisation money would be spent on debt retirement and the remaining 10 percent on poverty alleviation. “The country’s debts have increased manifold since then and poverty is increasing with the passage of time,” said Ghulam Farid Awan, a senior trade unionist. He said in the informal sector, 95 percent of labourers are hired on contract basis, where workers do not have any rights including the right to make trade unions.
Awan criticised the public-private partnership scheme of the present government and said this is another form of privatisation.
Habibuddin Junaidi, the central chairman of the All Pakistan Trade Unions Organisation, said after privatisation, the employment situation in commercial banks has worsened, and now no worker is appointed there at the lower cadre and officers are offered employment on contract basis, which has eroded trade unionism in banks.
Manzoor Razi of the Railway Workers Union said corruption in Pakistan Railways has brought it on the verge of collapse. He said Pakistan Railways was profitable until 1975-76 when the National Logistic Cell (NLC) was set up.
Besides passenger transport, the Railways was also carrying cargo from Karachi to other parts of the country and earning profits. The entire cargo service of the Railways was given to the NLC during the military regime of General Zia, and since then, the Railway is incurring losses.
Similarly, he said, during Pervez Musharraf’s government, the then railways minister General (retd) Javed Ashraf Qazi introduced Chinese engines, which were of inferior quality and all malfunctioned within a year.