LAHORE: Around 16,000 employees of the Punjab Literacy and Non-Formal Basic Education (LNFBE) department, who fear that they will lose their jobs, will hold a protest in front of the Punjab Assembly on February 8.
The employees, around 15,000 teachers and 1,206 other staff had been hired on a contract basis at the LNFBE department for several years. Now, as the department moves to new projects, they fear that they would be sacked. Under the banner of the Punjab Literacy Association (PLA), the affected employees have organised to protest against the department and the Punjab government.
An employee of the LNFBE department, who asked not to be named, said that the contract of the employees was almost over and they have been told that they would be laid off. "Some of us have been serving for the last eight to 10 years now." He said that they had been protesting against the injustice for years and every time they were told that they would be regularised. Several protests had been held in different cities and after observing the indifference of the government, the employees have decided to head to Lahore, he added.
He said, "We also met the minister to apprise him about the situation we are facing. The minister gave us assurances that no one would be fired, but there had been no progress. Some higher-ups are also threatening us that if we agitated than we will have to face the consequences."
He said that the department had, since 2002, hired people on various projects. The employees were shifted from project to project on a contractual basis without formalising their jobs. Now, he said, the department was preparing to launch new literacy programmes and employees were told to get ready to be laid off.
"Whenever there is a change in upper-levels of the organisations, new projects are started and the old ones abandoned," he added, adding that when that happened many of the experienced staff was laid off. "People who have experience are let go and new, inexperienced people are hired," he said.
He said that teachers were being paid only Rs5,000, which was not even the minimum salary as per the government's own rules. They were also tasked with arranging facilities for students on their own, he added. He said that they had two demands from the government. The first, he said, was that similar to the practice at the federal level and other provinces, the employees should be regularised and given all the benefits of permanent employees. The second demand was that teachers should at least be paid the minimum salary as per rules – Rs15,000, he said. "A large gathering from all over the province would hold a protest in front of the Punjab Assembly in Lahore on February 8 to protest against this injustice continuing for several years."
When contacted, Punjab LNFBE Minister Dr Farrukh Javed said that a meeting had been held for the employees and their case was being pursued. "They were being dropped but after I took notice it has been decided that they will be carried forward in the new project. After they are adjusted in the new projects, we will work on regularising them."
Published in The Express Tribune, February 5th, 2018.