Rawalpindi : The Railway Workers Union (Open Line) held a protest demonstration outside Railway Station Rawalpindi on Wednesday against the anti-people federal budget announced last week as well as the continuing conspiracy of vested interests within Pakistan Railways and outside of it to destroy the enterprise and eventually privatize it.
Dozens of RWU workers chanted slogans vociferously against divisional officers, the international financial institutions and the federal bureaucracy. They were joined in solidarity by a number of activists of the National Students Federation (NSF).
Speaking on the occasion RWU leaders Aasim Sajjad, Maqbool Hussain, Chaudhry Shabbir, Raja Jamil and others said that the budget was an eyewash that proved that economic policies in Pakistan are made not in the interests of working people but at the behest of the IFIs.
They said that that the token ad hoc increases in public sector employees salaries are meaningless in the face of rampant inflation and the overall deterioration in social and economic conditions of the working class.
The RWU leaders said that ultimately there will be no meaningful respite for workers until and unless Pakistani governments demonstrate a willingness to defy the neo-liberal dictates of the IFIs, tax the rich, and stop dedicated vast resources to defence and other non-productive heads.
The RWU leaders also said that the corporatization and planned privatization of state enterprises such as Pakistan Railways is being pushed by the IFIs and elements within the Railways officer corps that are content to make money through gimmicks such as private-public partnership and various other forms of subcontracting.
They said that there is still no official recognition that the primary reason for Railways decline is the National Logistics Cell (NLC) which has encroached upon Railways freight operations to the point that almost all cargo trains have been shut down.
The RWU leaders said that until the media, intelligentsia and political leadership generated the courage to identify the genuine reasons for Railways decline all talk of rehabilitating the enterprise will be nothing more than rhetoric.
The protestors continued their sloganeering for upto an hour before dispersing. They also severely criticized the Railways administration for continuing to foment divisions within Railway workers and propping up pocket unions.
They demanded a referendum so that the collective bargaining arrangement could be revived in Railways as there has been no open election since the mid-1980s.