Over 4000 workers at Pakistan’s Neelum-Jhelum hydro power project (NJHP)
in Muzzafarabad (Northern Pakistan) will receive a large payout as the result
of an agreement concluded between the Awami Labour Union and a Chinese
multinational company. The deal will provide workers with eight year’s worth of
gratuity benefits and annual leave payments – the equivalent to almost a year’s
worth of wages.
“Despite the risks, workers at Neelum-Jhelum have been unwavering in pursuit of their rights”, said BWI Regional Representative Apolinar Tolentino. “This victory marks a turning point for the many thousands of Pakistani workers building infrastructure projects across the country. We are immensely proud of their struggle.”
"This victory is due to the unrelenting pressure of workers", continued Tolentino. “As project holder, the Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority has worked closely with the company to circumvent workers’ rights. There are still a number of ongoing cases of unjustified termination of workers due to their union activity, and we will fully support the union in ensuring that these workers attain justice.”
The Awami Labour Union (ALU) is affiliated to the Pakistan Federation of Building and Wood Workers, who are actively organising workers in a number of large infrastructure projects. Most of these are being built by Chinese state-owned construction companies as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), many of which have a history of poor workplace relations.
The almost-finished NJHP is being built by a consortium of two Chinese company – China Gezhouba Group Company and China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CGGC-CMEC). The Chinese and Pakistani Governments are jointly proposing a cascade of similar dams down the Indus River that could, collectively, add up to 20,000MW of electricity to Pakistan’s grid.
In November 2017 3000 workers at the NJHP went on strike after 57 workers were dismissed without due process, leading to their reinstatement. While work on NJHP is drawing to a close as the waterway tunnels begin to fill, the construction workers that gave years of their life to this project intend to ensure their skills can be used on subsequent hydro projects in Pakistan.