Date: Sat, 9 Aug 97 10:07:36 CDT
From: Altaf Bhimji <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: union busting in Pakistan
Organization: West Coast Online, Inc.
Bank workers resent layoffs, curbs on union activity
By Nafisa Hoodbhoy
7 August 1997
KARACHI, Aug 7: Hundreds of bank and other financial institution
employees have been transferred, retired, sent on forced leave,
retrenched and offered the golden handshake even while their union
offices have been closed over the last few months, bank union leaders
The union leaders from Habib Bank, Muslim Commercial Bank, Allied Bank
and foreign banks interviewed by Dawn maintained that the insertion of
Section 27-B, Ordinance LVII of 1962 passed by the National Assembly
on May 26, ahead of the privatization of banks, had been a blow to
trade union activity - setting back its most active component in the
Section 27 B states: "No officer or member of a trade union in a
banking company shall use any bank facilities, including a car or
telephone, to promote trade union activities... or carry on trade
union activities during office hours... nor shall he be a person who
is not an employee of the banking company in question."
According to the union leaders, who claim to have lost contact with
one another after the closure of the offices, the Services Tribunals
(Amendment) Act 1997 had further prevented them from having access to
the labour courts, appellate courts or the National Industrial
Relations Council, with all labour disputes now to be sent to the
"We are expecting the worst after August 14, when there will be
retrenchment and the golden handshake will be offered to bank
employees ahead of privatization," said Habibuddin Junaidi, president
of Habib Bank General Workers Front Pakistan.
Foreign Banks Employees Federation president Mohammed Ajab Khan,
secretary-general Mohammed Saghir and finance secretary Farrukh Saleem
Khan told Dawn that already the foreign banks, Al Mashriq, Bank of
America, Standard Chartered, Hongkong Shanghai and ANZ Grindlays banks
had retrenched 30 per cent personnel, foremost amongst them being
peons and security guards and replaced their services by personnel
from private companies.
Foreign banks union leaders said they had refused to comply with
government instructions to vacate union offices and had, instead,
filed a writ petition against evacuation in the high court.
Muslim Commercial Bank union general secretary Saeed Ghani alleged
that while hundreds of employees had been transferred from the MCB
(where only 780 out of 14,000 employees were opting for the golden
handshake, "pocket unions" were being promoted by the management in a
clear cut example of unfair labour practices. At the same time, the
union leaders alleged that a number of collective bargaining agents
(CBAs) has been bought over by the management.
Saeed Ghani, who was in the forefront of the campaign launched during
March/April by the Federal Organisation of Bank Employees and
Financial Institutions (FOBFI) led by Mohammed Ali Memon of Habib Bank
Employees Union (CBA), told Dawn that the top leadership of FOBFI had
since advised his MCB union not to go on strike.
While trade union activity is in doldrums, its scattered leadership
sharply criticized the government's appointments of non-technical bank
presidents and executive vice presidents "with fantastic salaries" as
well as the discretionary powers given to banking heads to advance
millions of rupees in loans - "part of which are being used as
advances to finance their personal businesses."
Mushtaq Ahmed Khan Changezi, secretary-general of Habib Bank
Progressive Officers Union, alleged that while more than Rs1 billion
had been given out in loans by Habib Bank during the last three-four
months, only a tiny percentage of the Rs34 billion HBL loans had been
returned by defaulters. As a result of the lack of success in
recovering defaulter loans, the government had extended the deadline for Habib
Bank until September 5, union leaders said.
Mr Junaidi blamed past governments, bureaucrats, bank managements and
union leaders for their collective "corruption and incompetence" in
bringing banks to the present state of financial ruin. He demanded
that while all those who had contributed to the decline of the banks
and DFIs should be brought to trial and the "working class should not
In particular, the Workers Front president called for a referendum in
Habib Bank. According to him, while the Habib Bank unions had played a
leading role in trade union movements from 1974 uptill today, any
deviation by the CBAs could only be blamed on the government's failure
to hold referendum since the last four years.
DAWN Group of Newspapers, 1997
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