Textile sector strike and protest go unnoticed

KARACHI/LAHORE: Textile millers on closed their factories across the country to protest an increase in the cost of doing business and also warned that they could extend the campaign ‘indefinitely’ if demands are not met. The All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (Aptma) said the entire basic textile sector remained closed from 9 am to 5 pm, resulting in losses worth Rs1.80 billion for the industry and a jobless day for 300,000 daily wagers.

“It was a countrywide strike and all spinning, weaving and processing mills shut down their production,” said Amir Fayyaz, chairman of Aptma Punjab. “If our just demands are not met within a week we would close our industries indefinitely.” Textile millers were protesting an increase in the power tariff and charges of gas infrastructure development cess (GIDC) and claimed that both the charges added up Rs170 billion in the cost of doing business every year.

They said electricity was being provided to them at 15 cents per unit as compared to the neighbouring and competing countries, which provided the utility at the rate of 8 to 9 cents/unit. In August this year, Pakistan’s textile exports remained at $1.83 billion against $1.9 billion August last year.

Pakistan’s textile exports have fallen despite of Pakistan received GSP Plus from the European Union. India, on the other hand received an investment of $66 billion in the sector as it provided 10 percent subsidy to the industry.

Textile industry provided jobs to 15 million people while 30 percent spinning industry worth Rs3,467 million (0.2 million to 0.25 million spindles) were closed because of an increase in the cost of doing business.

On a question, Yasin Siddik, ex-chairman Aptma said prime minister had given time last month and listened to them but the problems were not resolved only within the given time. He had given five days for announcement of exports package, which was still due.

Siddik said they were ready to compete with individual businessman of any country, but not the businessman having full support of his country, as they (Pakistani businessmen) were left alone in the competition. They said the government had increased gas prices for the captive and general industry in addition to levy of GIDC at Rs200 for captive power plants.Due to the levy of GIDC and increase in gas tariff by 23 percent, cost of gas for industry increased to $6.7 per million metric British thermal unit (mmBtu) for industry and $7.7 per mmBtu for captive power plant as compared to India $4.2, Bangladesh $3.1 and Vietnam $4.2 per mmBtu.

Aptma chairman Tariq Saud said in order to save its industry Turkey had imposed 28 to 35 percent duty on Pakistani yarn while Pakistan imported 16,000 tonnes of yarn from India last year at five percent duty only. Meanwhile, Aptma leaders in Lahore were also joined by the office bearers of Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry that asked the government to accept the just demands of the industry. They along with Aptma leadership burnt Indian yarn and fabric. The textile industry experts alleged that Indian textiles were being dumped in Pakistan at under invoiced rates. Moreover, they added that Indian textiles were being allowed in Pakistan at marginal duty, while Pakistani textiles were subjected to every import duty.

They demanded of the government to slap similar duties on Indian yarn and fabric that was levied on similar Pakistani products in India.Media teams were taken in groups to different mills where workers sitting outside the mills raised slogans against the government.Industry experts estimated that the nine-hour closure of the basic textile sector resulted in production losses worth Rs1.80 billion. Around 300,000 daily wage workers’ that the industry employs were deprived of one day’s earning.

Millers warned that if the industries were forced to go on an indefinite strike 500,000 direct jobs would be lost and 1.5 million indirect jobs would be at stake.

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