Ten years is a long time between paydays, but a decade of unceasing struggle by workers and their union at the Pearl Continental Hotel in Karachi, Pakistan has won the reinstatement of 19 dismissed union officers and members. Now they are receiving their first wages in 10 years.
The struggle at the hotel 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.
When the Pearl Continental Hotel Workers Union opposed the mass termination of these casual workers, management launched a series of vicious attacks on the union, including filing false charges against union leaders that led to their arrest. These charges were used to terminate the union’s General Secretary, Ghulam Mehboob, Joint Secretary Basheer Hussain and 18 other union members and officers in January 2002. Ghulam Mehboob and Basheer Hussain were locked up for months while management and the police conspired to link them to various alleged criminal acts. In 2009, after 7 years of vilification and false accusations, the charges were thrown out of the courts in a decision which declared that “Doubt prevails in every nook and cranny of this case.”
The union, a member of the IUF-affiliated Pakistan Hotel, Restaurant, Clubs, Tourism, Catering and Allied Workers (PHRCTCAWF), fought back continually over the years with protest rallies, media conferences, protest letters, and a drawn-out legal battle, backed by continuous international solidarity actions and support from the IUF Pakistan office and the regional and international IUF secretariats. A new conflict over the dismissal of another four union officers and members in February 2010 led to a 26-day occupation of the hotel basement by 200 union members, ending with the reinstatement of the four workers.
Finally in February 2011 the Sindh Labour Court ordered the reinstatement of 19 union officers and members who were unfairly dismissed in 2002. While the Pearl Continental Hotel management has appealed the court’s decision and refused to allow them into the hotel, they still must pay the reinstated workers. They are now receiving their first wages in a decade.
Throughout the lengthy struggle, the union maintained its original demands over the rights of precarious workers. As a result, the casual workers management tried to terminate en masse back in 2001 were made permanent over the years and joined the union.
Union General Secretary Ghulam Mehboob has thanked IUF members throughout the world for their support over the past 10 years.