Message forwarded from the Committee for a Workers' International:
PO Box 3688, London E9 5QX.
Tel.: 00 44 181 533 0201
Fax: 00 44 181 985 0757
11 June 1997
Urgent Action required!
Pakistani Carpet Workers on strike
The Committee for a Workers' International is appealing for world-wide support to be given to a strike in Pakistan of some of the most harshly exploited workers in the world. On 11th June, the United Carpet Industries Labour Union brought out 20,000 workers in Lahore, closing all 130 workplaces in the city. Red flags were flying outside the occupied factories and above the four 'strike camps' set up by the union. A demonstration of support was held in temperatures of 40 degrees.
After 30 years without striking, the workers are now demanding not only substantial wage rises but the implementation of labour laws in the industry, retirement pay, measures to protect their health and safety and an end to child labour. The average wage is Rs1600 ($40) a month and has not changed for three years while prices have risen more than 200%. Labouring intolerably long hours with no protection, carpet-workers suffer all kinds of debuilitating health problems. In the washing processes, chemicals are used that burn the skin from face and limb. In the cutting rooms, the heavy dust goes straight into the lungs.
Worst of all, the bosses that make the big money out of this sweated labour cannot be forced to the negotiating table. Everything is sub-contracted out and all responsibility 'devolved' from the real profiteers. The bosses have refused to acknowledge the existence of the union, let alone discuss with its leaders. They blame various non-governmental organisations for putting jobs in danger with their 'bad publicity' about child labour. The strikers' message is that they are no longer prepared to work for employers who put their lives at risk and take away the childhood of thousands of children.
There are 80,000 carpet-workers in Pakistan. The Lahore strikers are giving them hope by making a stand. They have organised to make sure the strike is 100% and are determined to press home every one of their demands. In this they deserve and need the support of the whole international labour movement. While feelings are understandably running high as decades of frustration are unleashed, a disciplined approach is being maintained. The carpet bosses have not hesitated in the past to threaten violence against strike leaders and the forces of the state could move at any time to arrest them and the most prominent of their supporters.
Please send messages of support to: Ittehad Carpet Industries Labour Union, 40 Abbott Road, Lahore, Pakistan. Fax ++9242 7239128. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Protests to: Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister House, Islamabad, Pakistan. Fax: ++92 51 256687 and Pakistan Carpet Manufacturers & Exporters Association, Ali Complex, 23 Empress Road, Lahore, Pakistan. Fax: ++92 42 6305296.