THE BANNER on the main gate of the National Refinery at Karachi, the largest oil refinery in Pakistan, read, “For the past 41 years, who has been producing profits at National Refinery? We have. So who should be the owner of National Refinery? Us.”
The union of permanent workers is campaigning against the privatisation of the refinery.
Another 500-strong union of temporary contract workers has been protesting for permanent employment. A five-year struggle by contract workers recently won union rights, but they are not even allowed to use the factory transport, canteen or medical facilities.
When the administration removed their banners on 1 December the 500 temporary workers walked out en masse. It was the first ever explosion of anger at the refinery. The walkout paralysed the refinery for well over six hours, despite threats against the strikers.
The workers are angry that the government is privatising profit-making state enterprises. One banner read, “If the refinery is making profit then why privatise it?”
In all the cases where mass mobilisations have been organised, the government has been forced to concede and delay privatisation.
One permanent worker said, “The temporary workers through their strike have shown that not mere banners but direct action is the only answer to the administrative repression.”