Date: April 24, 2020
Location: Pakistan
Type of action: Online action


The WMW national coordination body and social activists in Pakistan extended their solidarity with the workers of the world especially the victims of Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh. They held an online meeting organized by Women in Struggle for Empowerment (WISE); the topic was People Before Profit: “Understanding Corporate Power and Impunity”. The for the full report on the meeting, joined by thirteen people from eight districts, among them the country focal person of CADTM-Pakistan, rights activists, peasant’s leadership, journalist, medical officer, is in the end of this abstract. They started by recalling the tragic incident of Rana Plaza. “Expressing solidarity with the victims and their families, on April 24th, once again we are here to raise our voices against the corporate crimes of these transnational powers, their violations against women and peoples around the world”, told Bushra Khaliq, member of the International Committee of WMW and the National Coordinating Body in Pakistan.

Transnational Corporations (TNCs) are among the world’s biggest economic institutions. The TNCs have a predatory business model and connivance with the ruling elite of developing countries. A rough estimate suggests that the 300 largest TNCs own or control at least one-quarter of the entire world’s productive assets, worth about US$ 5 trillion. Plenty of corporations are on par with some of the largest economies in the world: Walmart exceeds Spain and Australia, for example. Of the top 100 revenue generators, 71 are corporations. The cash that Apple has on hand exceeds the GDPs of two-thirds of the world’s countries. Tax evasion, mis invoicing, intra-company trade is common practice of the TNCs. These companies choose locations for personnel, factories, executive suites, or bank accounts based on where regulations are friendly, resources abundant, and connectivity seamless, often having legal domicile in one country, corporate management in another, financial assets in a third, and administrative staff spread over several more.

In this time of pandemic, capitalism is exposed once again, and we are witnessing huge crisis regarding food sovereignty and health services. The governments are still protecting the big businesses through bail out packages but hoodwinking the needs of the poor masses, facing health, food and economic issues during the on-going lock down. As we face a global economic fall-out, the impacts on the local economies, hitting the poor and workers, are worst due to the pandemic. The recent debt relief by International Monetary Fund and G20 to poor and developing countries is too less a measure. The payment of developing countries debt should be cancelled for at least two years.

The division of the society has the worst effects on working women and in this crisis companies increase the burden upon them. Nestle milk factory, in Kabirwala, has been exploiting the natural resources without respecting the labor laws in Pakistan. During the COVID-19, several workers were laid off. They are now blackmailing the peasants by refusing to purchase their milk. The worried farmers have no option but to sell the milk at lowest price, offered by Nestle. Also in Kabirwala women cotton pickers work under harsh weather, against minimal wages, exposing themselves to different pesticides normally sprayed on cotton by the farmers. Several TNCs, including IKEA buy raw cotton material from Pakistan, but they rarely perform their due corporate social responsibility in this regard. There should be accountability of all the exploiters throughout the cotton supply chain, from local contractors to manufacturers of final product.

The majority of poor women in district Rajanpur, South Punjab, work in the tobacco processing sector, for contractors that sell their product to big tobacco companies. The workplaces are dingy, without proper light and ventilation. The women workers are directly exposed to the hazardous tobacco odor. In Pakistan cities, during the pandemia, several big brands, big shopping stores and multi-national companies kept offices open but their employees, especially the working women, have to risk their health in commuting to work and have no support from the companies. Also medical staff in the hospitals are facing the absence of sufficient necessary equipment.

The government should extend all necessary services to the domestic workers, cotton pickers women, home based workers on the priority during the lock down. The social protection, food and protective items to the daily wagers, workers and people living in the slums is urgent. This is a matter of grave concern particularly in a country where 46% population is already living below poverty line. And the media, under the State control, a State that is the biggest protectors of the crony capitalism and TNCs instead of caring and prioritizing the needs of their citizens, doesn’t give space to the opinion of the civil society. Regarding this, women have to rethink the strategy to reclaim their rightfull spaces.