Karachi, Aug 24 : Hotel workers who were terminated after the 9/11 air attacks on the US, because tourism in Pakistan had been badly affected by the attacks, are now demanding back their jobs. According to them, they have stayed jobless for seven years and that now they must be reinstated since the hotel industry was doing well.
Some sacked employees organised a demonstration outside one such hotel in Karachi yesterday. These employees were terminated from service in December 2001, shortly after occupancy rates plummeted in the post-9/11 scenario. The reason given by the management was that they simply could not afford these employees, due to the repercussions of the attack on the World Trade Center in September that year.
For its part, the hotel says that it has sacked fewer people than the protestors have claimed and that completely unrelated people have been taking part in the protests to back the union.
52-year-old Nazir Muhammad was one of them. He had worked as a waiter for the past six years, and claimed that the management lay off 300 employees. "Life became very tough after I was dismissed but we remained hopeful of getting our jobs back. However, even after seven years, we have yet to be rehired," the Daily Times quoted Nazir as saying.
The workers have been protesting to get their jobs back since then. On Saturday, they staged a sit-in with their children, wore red armbands and carried banners at the entrance of I.I Chundrigar Road.
However, the hotel management bluntly rejected the allegations. "Only about 15 of these protestors worked at our hotel and I have video evidence to prove that. The rest are outsiders and the protests are an attempt to blackmail us by the union leaders, as the heavy tips made at a five-star hotel are their real attraction," said the hotel's HR Director Amir Gul.
He said that 9/11 had a big impact on businesses around the globe. "Our occupancy rate dropped to 20 percent and in such conditions, we could not afford the extra burden," said Gul and added that though the hotel started rehiring after the situation stabilized, the sacked workers never came back, so the management decided to hire new workers.
The workers have been backed by the union. "Recently, the prime minister announced the removal of the ban on unions but these directives have yet to be enforced practically," said hotel workers CBA union secretary general Ghulam Mahboob.