LAHORE - Countrywide labour unions, federations and confederations are silent spectators on the issue of the PIA privatisation despite their recent announcements to resist the government move jointly.

Much furious over “capitalist agenda” of the PML-N government, the union leaders had vowed to stand firm against “the sale of national institutions.” Hardly two months back when Jamaat-e-Islami-backed National Labour Federation organized an anti-privatisation conference in Lahore, the red-flag bearers, communists, socialists and Islamists sat together, made loud speeches against feudalism, capitalism, cursed the government and said they were united and firm.

Some union leaders, however, now say they have lack of unity and are enabling the government to “fulfill IMF and World Bank agenda.” In background discussions, they admit union leaders have preferred personal interests to the national interests.

“After the PIA, there will be turn of Pakistan Steel Mills and then that of power sector. It will continue and we can’t be united,” said a union leader, Shaukat Chaudhry. He accepted the trade unions’ failure to stand by the PIA employees on the privatisation issue.

Aima Mahmood, the secretary general of All Pakistan Trade Union Federation, admitted lack of unity among public-sector unions. She, however, said the unions were opposing the government policy of privatisation. “Unions alone can’t stop the privatization of PIA or other-public utilities. We need support of the masses and the media,” she said.

Over 200 delegates of the country’s leading labour unions, workers’ federations and confederations attended the NLF’s anti-privatisation moot in Lahore and announced to resist the government move to privatise public-sector utilities and departments. Leaders from the opposition parties, Pakistan Trade Union Federation, National Labour Federation, Muttahida Labour Federation, Pakistan Progressive Federation, Wapda Employees Union, Pakistan National Shipping Corporation Employees Union, Muslim Commercial Bank Staff Union, Balochistan Irrigation Employees Union, Pakistan Steel Labour Union, Karachi Shipyard, Jeay Sindh Labour Federation, Pakistan Coal Mines Labour Union, Telecom Workers’ Union and different Railway unions had attended that conference.

The NLF, following the conference, held different sittings of union leaders to form a united alliance against the privatisation, but all went in vain. Wapda’s powerful union, led by Khursheed Ahmed, did not show any worthwhile solidarity with the PIA employees. Some union leaders say All Pakistan Wapda Hydro Electric Union apparently stopped opposing power-sector privatisation after Khursheed Ahmed’s meeting with the prime minister some two months back.

Similarly, All Pakistan Workers’ Confederation, an alliance of around 10 powerful federations, including All Pakistan Trade Unions Federation, Muttahida Labour Federation and Pakistan Workers’ Federation, also seems silent on the issue of privatisation. “There was a time when the railway union, Wapda union and PIA union, led by Mirza Ibrahim, Bashir Bakhtiar and Tufail Abbas, respectively, were providing umbrella to other small and big unions of the country. But Now we don’t have such strength due to minor conflicts within the unions,” said Shaukat.