In a delightful show of positive power, the 100,000-250,000 striking workers of power looms industries in Faisalabad have returned to work after winning a 100% of their strike mandate. The workers went on strike earlier this month to demand the implementation of the 17% wage increase suggested by the Minimum Wages Board in 2010-2011 provincial budget.
The striking workers and their leaders faced extreme hardship in the 24 days of the strike. Target killings of two union leaders, imposition of Section 144, and daily ongoing threats to strikers from the goons of the mill owners and the local keepers of law and order. The striking workers were lathi-charged, tear-gassed, fired-upon, arrested and injured but nothing made them cross the picket lines.
The strike was called July 5 by Labour Quomi Movement (LQM), an organization representing 600,000 power loom workers working in 250,000 power loom factories in Faisalabad, Jhang and Toba Tek Singh. The LQM lost its founder and lead-organizer/negotiator Mustansar Randhawa (35) on July 6 when he was gunned down with his brother outside the LQM office in a shameful act of target killing. Randhawa was also a leading member of National Trade Union Federation (NFTU).
By July 20th, with 15,000 power loom factories closed shut, the cost of the strike was estimated at 9 Billion Rupees.
Workers’ demands were met July 29 when 25,000 workers marched over to picket the Commissioner’s office. It was a peaceful demonstration where workers walked 20 kilometers without any incidence of violence.
This action has many gains. About 250,000 power looms workers will have a 17% higher pay cheque, a great sense of power in coming together, and faith in the crucial role of their allies and supporters. As well, it gives immeasurable strength to the emerging political voice of Pakistan’s ‘Civil Society’, the submerged left that represents the democratic and secular segments of Pakistani society. It tells us that in the political arena, a vital new element has surfaced to fight with the armed religious fanatics and the traditional holders of power in Pakistan.
‘Stop repression against struggling power loom workers in Punjab’ by Pakistan Labour Federation (firstname.lastname@example.org) in SPN (email@example.com) July 20, 2010
‘Faisalabad Strike update’ (July 29), ‘The strike enters seventh day’ (July 26), ‘A total victory for power looms workers’ (July 29) by Farooq Tariq (firstname.lastname@example.org) in SPN (email@example.com), July 2010