LAHORE: Dozens of home-based workers gathered in front of Lahore Press Club for the third time in as many weeks demanding that the government adopt a policy draft pledging legal rights for them.
They said they were still not recognised as workers although they made a contribution to the national economy. They also complained about poor working conditions, saying that they did not have defined working hours, wages or a complaints mechanism.
“We are not getting the minimum legal wage or regular work. We demand justice,” said Fazeelat Bibi, one of the protesters from Kasur. “We should be eligible for health cover, social security and housing schemes.”
Nazali Javed said the policy draft had been in works for three years. “We will march from Kasur to Lahore if the policy is not approved,” she said. Representatives of some other organisations, too, joined the protest. South Asia Partnership-Pakistan deputy director Irfan Mufti said the Labour Policy, approved in 2015, called for the protection of home-based workers. They need to be provided a legislative cover, Mufti said. Azra Shaad from the Women Workers’ Helpline said the policy should have been a part of the women empowerment package the government had introduced in 2012. “The Punjab Economic Growth Strategy should cater to the development of informal workers. Utilising their potential can help generate a handsome revenue for the province,” said HomeNet Pakistan Executive Director Ume Laila Azhar. The protesters demanded that the government approve the policy by May 1. They warned of expanding the scope of their protest if their demand was not met.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 29th, 2016.