Published: 28/02/2011

Over nine years of union struggle at Karachi’s upscale Pearl Continental Hotel received a major boost on February 26 when the provincial Labour Court ordered union General Secretary Ghulam Mehboob, Joint Secretary Basheer Hussain and 18 other union members and officers reinstated in their jobs.

Ghulam Mehboob and Basheer Hussain were sacked – for absenteeism! – on March 5, 2002 while they were illegally jailed.  For months they were locked up while management and the police conspired to link them to various alleged criminal acts. In 2009, after 7 years of vilification and false accusations, their cases were thrown out of the courts in a decision which declared that “Doubt prevails in every nook and cranny of this case.”

The other 18 union members and officers were sacked one week after Mehboob and Hussain.

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. 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.

The union has defended its organization and the rights of its members with unceasing courage, energy and determination, collecting dues individually and maintaining a constant presence in the streets and internationally with the support of the IUF Pakistan office and the international secretariat.

Faced with 8 years of management obstruction, the union last year successfully fought to have the country’s Supreme Court order the provincial labour court to finally render a decision. Union vice-president Nasreen Reshad won her court case last December, gaining reinstatement with full back benefits. A decision is still pending in the case of 11 union members dismissed in June 2002.

The struggle is not over, and the company can still appeal. But the reinstatement orders are a major legal and moral victory vindicating nine years of struggle in the longest-ever continuous fight for justice in the history of Pakistan labour.