Thousands of labourers organised protests against China in Karachi, Pakistan today regarding the disparity between the wages received by them and their Chinese compatriots in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project. The protests were held after reports had emerged Chinese staff hired by the Punjab Mass Transit Authority for Orange Line Metro Train (OMLT) project are getting more salaries in comparison to their Pakistani counterparts. The Pakistani employees have demanded a salary hike from the government in accordance with the salaries of their Chinese counterparts.
Wage disparity affecting the morale of Pakistani staff
According to reports, the huge disparity in the salaries of Pakistani staff and Chinese staff is affecting the morale of the former badly. The Pakistani staff also has a grading system different from the Chinese. Moreover, the Chinese are being paid in Yuan while the Pakistanis are being paid in Pakistani rupees (PKR).
As of today, the value of 1 Chinese Yuan was more than 24 Pakistani Rupees. There are reportedly huge gaps in the salaries of Pakistani and Chinese officials occupying an equivalent position in the OLMT project. As reported by the News International, a Chinese-origin deputy chief executive officer with grade L 2 is paid 136,000 CNY monthly which amounts to Rs. 3.26 million. All such top positions, which are three in number, have been filled by the Chinese with no Pakistani being hired at the position. The discrimination is not limited to these three positions. There are huge differences in the salaries paid to the Chinese staff and the Pakistani staff working on the slot of train dispatcher/train crew. China has halted the work on its major projects as its investments in Pakistan have slowed down due to a number of factors including Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic, ongoing political unrest and foreign debt limits.
General Manager (Operations) Uzair Shah of Punjab Mass Transit Authority denied that the wage disparity was affecting the morale of Pakistani employees. He said that no comparison could be draw between the salaries of the employees and justified the wage gap saying that the Chinese employees were there to train their Pakistani counterparts.
Pakistan’s National Assembly passes CPEC Authority Bill
The National Assembly of Pakistan passed the CPEC authority Bill 2020 yesterday amidst heavy opposition. Ahsan Iqbal, former minister of planning gave a note of dissent against the Bill. He called the creation of CPEC Authority under the bill as “superfluous and unnecessary” adding that the role entrusted on the CPEC authority was being diligently and effectively discharged by the ministry of planning. He called for the strengthening of the CPEC secretariat instead of creating a new authority.