Workers from the Suki Kinari hydro construction project on 2 June signed an agreement with the China Gezhouba Group Company (CGGC) and local government officials approving the reinstatement of 1,600 dismissed construction workers, following a 12-day blockade of a highway leading to their worksite.
“This is a significant victory in the midst of a very difficult time. We are extremely proud of our brave members who took action," said Aslam Adil, General Secretary of the Pakistan Federation of Building and Wood Workers (PFBWW).
It was reported that the CGGC has terminated 1,600 workers, including more than 400 union members, at the start of the COVID-19 crisis in the country. As a response, the workers blocked project supplies to the hydro construction project and nearby highway construction works, leaving no cement, diesel or petrol available at the worksites.
“We have taken to the streets over our employer’s decision to dismiss us and withhold our wages for the last three months”, Union President Tahir Hussain Shah said. “Our families are troubled by the sacking and nonpayment of salary, which also violate the government’s orders.”
Under Pakistani law, employers are required to pay termination benefits to workers discharged of their duties. The union said that to make matters worse, the workers were terminated in the lead-up to the Eid celebrations.
“CGGC has a history of this kind of behavior. At the nearby Neelum Jhelum hydro project, workers face systematic denial of their rights. We are also concerned about CGGC’s behaviour in the Mohmand dam site,” Adil stressed.
In May 2017, BWI submitted a complaint to the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association regarding CGGC’s behaviour on the Suki Kinari hydro construction project. BWI said that the Pakistani government has to do more to ensure that companies fully recognize workers’ rights to association and collective bargaining.