Press Release, 5th July, 2010.
In a historic display of strength and unity, 10,000 ship breaking workers came together in Gadani today to protest deplorable working conditions and demand the fulfillment of repeatedly broken promises.
Even before the rally began, the massive congregation faced systematic harassment from the police and Anti Terrorism Task Force, who had arrived four hours in advance of the scheduled protest time of 10:30am. Not only did they attempt to physically force the protesters back to work, but led a baton charge on 150 workers, which resulted in several casualties. After wounding numerous protesters, security forces detained Edhi ambulances for a full 2 hours and prevented paramedics from tending to the injured.
Then in an attempt to intimidate the organizers and disperse the rally, the heavily armed police arrested, without just cause, the General Secretary of the Gadani Ship Breaking Democratic Workers Union (GDSBDWU), Tarhir Yusufzai and threatened to arrest the Deputy General Secretary of the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF), Nasir Mansoor. However, the sheer presence of thousands of workers forced the S.H.O. Amir Abdullah to back down from his confrontational stance and release Tahir Yusufzai.
A convention was held noting the long struggle of the workers. Nasir Manzoor from the NTUF, Tahir Yusufzai from GDSBDWU, Ghulam Mustafa from BNP all spoke at the convention.
The workers then commenced their 8km march along the Gadani shoreline at 10:45am and were joined by over 10,000 workers. Despite the squalid living conditions forced upon the workers for years past, they found joy in solidarity with their fellow workers and were in high spirits throughout the protest.
The ship breaking owners had previously agreed to meet the workers’ demands by 30th June in return for them calling off the strike scheduled from 16th to 30th June. The owners’ refusal to abide by the agreement and their underhand attempts to demoralize the union through physical threats and intimidation has only served to strengthen the resolve of the workers. Taking into account the owners’ lack of good faith and their deceitful efforts to deny basic rights to the workers, it was unanimously decided by all present that an indefinite strike be called from the 5th of July till the following demands were met:
100% increase in wages
Registration with Social Security and Old age Benefits Institutes
Medical Dispensary and Ambulance at each ship breaking yard
Clean drinking water and canteen at each yard
Appointment letter for every worker
End of contract (JAMADARY) system
Workers residential colony
Recognition of representative character of GSBDW Union
Occupational safety measures at work place
End of police harassment against workers
For more information, please call: Nasir Manzoor, Deputy General Secretary National Trade Union Federation at 0300-2449970