December 14th, 2021
By Hamid Riaz
A Province-wide strike call by the employees’ union of the Punjab Workers’ Welfare Fund (PWWF) resulted in the closure of (all) seventy educational institutions being managed by the fund, on Tuesday, December 14th.
Some thirty-five hundred teaching and non-teaching staff employed by the Education Directorate of the PWWF participated in the strike to pressure the provincial labor department to award them the same amenities as those enjoyed by employees of “other government departments.”
“Employees of all other government departments are awarded pensions after they retire, they are given a medical allowance and have a proper time scale for promotions, advancements, and career growth. None of these facilities have been provided to the teaching and non-teaching staff employed by PWWF schools. I ask why these dual standards? Are we lesser employees,” says the President of the PWWF Employees’ Union, Chaudhry Siddique, while talking to VoicePk.net.
“Not so long ago the Punjab government announced an increase of forty-four percent to the housing allowance of all provincial employees but we were again left out. All employees working at these schools appeared in Provincial Management Service (PMS) exactly like those employed in other departments. Then why are we being discriminated against,” reiterates Siddique.
Officials of the PWWF do not have a coherent response to the brewing crisis. “I am not in a position to comment,” says one official from the education directorate, over the phone; “There is no strike going on. There are just some miscreants trying to create a ruckus. All the schools are operational,” grumbles another official, denying overwhelming video and photo evidence.
While the PA of the ‘newly appointed secretary of the PWWF told VoicePk.net that “The old secretary Mr. Chatha has been transferred and today is the new secretary’s first day at work. So, he might not be aware of the matter.”
The current/ongoing strike is not the first direct action call over this matter. These employees started their movement in July this year when on the 14th and 15th of this month they staged a protest outside the office of the labor secretary. “After the first protest, the labor secretary met with our representatives and assured us that our demands will be met within a week. So we left this promise never materialized.”
After this first (failed) attempt the employees union decided to rise again in September when they planned a protest dharna outside the Chief Minister Punjab’s house. But this time the labor secretary, this time accompanied by the labor minister of Punjab again gave them sops and succeeded in sending them home even before the protest began. “Our protest was planned for the 23rd of September. They came to us on the 22nd and made us promises. We trusted them and called off our protest. To this day nothing has happened,” laments Siddique.
Because of these repeated betrayals, the employees’ union seems determined to continue with their boycott and resultant closure of workers’ schools until all their demands are met. And as the labor department remains intent on ignoring these demands the biggest losers are the children of the working class who benefit from these low-cost educational institutions.