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Pakistan's Pearl Continental Hotel Workers Continue Struggle for Union Rights

Posted to the IUF website 22-Nov-2004

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The struggle for union rights at Karachi's upscale Pearl Continental Hotel entered its 4th year on 9 November 2004 as the union held meetings and rallies to mark the day on which more than 300 workers were terminated by the hotel management through an advertisement published in a local newspaper.

The conflict began in September 2001, when management announced that due to a decline in bookings it would sack all casual and temporary workers and eliminate one day of paid work per week for permanent staff. The union called for negotiations, but management ignored the request. The dismissal letter was published in a daily newspaper on November 8, and the workers were barred from entering the hotel when they reported for work the next day.

What began as a union campaign to defend the rights of casual hotel employees escalated quickly into an all-out management attack on the existence of the union and the physical well-being and safety of its members and officers. Union office bearers have experienced illegal detention and have been beaten while in custody. They, together with numerous union members, have been terminated as a result of alleged restructuring.


Pearl Continental Union members and their families demonstrate on Eid Day, 14 November 2004. They were joined by representatives from other unions, federations and labour and human rights organizations in a show of solidarity and support for the hotel union.


In June 2003, responding to a complaint brought by the IUF on behalf of the Pearl Continental union, the Committee on Freedom of Association of the ILO requested the government of Pakistan to (among other measures) instruct the competent labour authorities to rapidly undertake an in-depth investigation of the anti-union dismissals at the Karachi Pearl Continental Hotel and, if it is found that there has been anti-union discrimination, to ensure that the workers concerned are reinstated in their posts, without loss of pay. It further requests the Government to initiate meetings between the hotel management and the trade union with a view to avoiding violations of trade union rights in the future. The Committee concluded that grave violations of union rights had been committed by the hotel management and local authorities, instructed the government to fully investigate the incidents of police detention, violence and harassment of union members and requested that the government report back to the ILO.

The workers and their union are determined to fight and they need your continued support! They continue to actively demonstrate, to campaign, and to maintain support among workers both inside and outside the hotel. The next protest rally is scheduled for 6 January 2005 to mark the arrests of union leaders in 2002.

What you can do


To date, the government has ignored the ILO recommendations. New pressure is needed on the government of Pakistan to intervene for a settlement of this conflict based on respect for trade union rights. You can help by sending a message to the Pakistani authorities.

Sample Message to the Prime Minister of Pakistan


To: Mr. Shaukat Aziz
Prime Minister of Pakistan
Fax: +92 51 922 28 03

with copies to

Mr. Pervez Musharaf, President & Chief Executive Of the Islamic Republic Of Pakistan
Fax: +92 51 922 48 36
E-mail: CE@pak.gov.pk

Chief Minister, Government of Sindh
Fax: + 92 21 9202000

General Manager, Pearl Continental Hotel, Karachi, Pakistan
Fax: + 92 21 568 1835/568 2655
E-mail: pckhi@khi.compol.com

Concerns: grave violations of democratic rights at the Karachi Pearl Continental Hotel

Dear Mr. Prime Minister

I have been informed by the IUF, an international trade union federation representing over 12 million members in 126 countries, about repeated and serious violations of basic democratic rights at Karachi's Pearl Continental Hotel.

Since September 2001, the democratically elected trade union representing the overwhelming majority of hotel employees has been seeking to defend the trade union rights guaranteed workers under Pakistan's constitution and international Conventions. Members and office-bearers of the Pearl Continental Hotel Workers' Union have been brutally dismissed from their jobs, detained illegally by police, threatened with violence and beaten at a local police station in the presence of hotel management staff. At no time during these events has there been any indication that the laws which exist in principle to protect Pakistan's workers are being enforced, or that the principle of equal justice before the law is being applied.

Since these abuses took place with the cooperation and collaboration of the Pakistani police and local government authorities, in gross violation of both national law and international Conventions of the United Nations, the government of Pakistan is now the object of a complaint filed with the International Labour Organization, part of the United Nations system, Case No. 2169. In June 2003, the Committee on Freedom of Association of the ILO concluded that grave violations of trade union rights had indeed been committed by the hotel management and local police and government authorities, instructed the government to fully investigate the incidents of police detention, violence and harassment of union members and requested that the government report back to the ILO. To date, your government has not responded to the ILO recommendations.

We suggest that it is in Pakistan's interest to ensure that this issue is resolved quickly on the basis of respect for international Conventions to which your government is a signatory. We would therefore ask that you use your good offices to intervene with the management and owner of the Pearl Continental Hotel to ensure that the rights of the Pearl Continental Hotel Workers' Union are fully respected and that management cease all violence and intimidation directed against the employees of this establishment and their trade union. We further request that a full, impartial and transparent inquiry be convened to investigate flagrant abuses of police and judicial power in connection with management's illegal aggression against the Pearl Continental Hotel Workers' Union.

Yours sincerely,

Kindly send copies of any message you might send to the IUF secretariat. We will convey them to the Pearl Continental Hotel Workers' Union.

We thank you in advance for your solidarity and support.