A strike by Locomotive Maintenance Staff in Karachi over unpaid wages has ended in a dramatic victory. It is a story that shows that even in times of crisis, workers can fight and win.
Since last year’s flooding, railway workers in Pakistan have faced repeated delays and issues in receiving their wages. This is despite the heroic efforts that railway workers have played in making the relief efforts possible.
But this week, after yet another unexplained delay in wages, with just days to go to Eid, Karachi railway workers downed tools and blocked the tracks - and won.
The strike takes place in the context of a wider struggle for trade union rights in the country, where Pakistani unionists have been fighting for their right to freedom of association 1993 after a series of bans and restrictions were introduced.
The whole story highlights a crucial aspect of climate change: the flooding in the first place underlines the huge unfairness of countries like Pakistan, which have contributed the least to climate change, and are left paying the price as climate harms escalate and natural disasters mount. The workers who keep our societies moving are on the front lines when climate harms hit - but all too often, such crises become pretexts for attacks on their rights and conditions..
But the struggle of these workers also shows another aspect to climate change. It shows us that even in such desperate times, solidarity and struggle still deliver for workers. As climate change continues to devastate our economies and infrastructure, it will be vital for unions around the world to learn this lesson.
David Gobé, ITF Global Railway Section Chair, commented:“This victory underlines the urgent need for a just transition for workers. The Railway Workers’ Union of Pakistan has shown that workers will not tolerate climate change being used as an excuse to attack jobs and conditions. Transport workers - especially in Pakistan - have made enormous sacrifices over the last year, but this shows that they will not allow employers and governments to make a mockery of that sacrifice.”
Noel Coard, Inland Transport Sections Secretary of the ITF, said:“This is a fantastic victory for RWU, your solidarity and strength is a shining light for the whole global trade union movement. Let this victory send a message to the Pakistani government: not a train moves without railway workers; it is time to treat these workers - in terms of pay, pensions, and conditions - with the dignity that they deserve.”