KARACHI: The termination of hundreds of workers and withholding of their salaries is a blatant violation of the government's proclamations, claimed protesting labour representatives on Monday, adding that if injustice against the workers was not halted, their protests may spread beyond the streets to the residences and offices of the authorities.
The demonstration, organised by the National Trade Union Federation of Pakistan (NTUF) and the Home-Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) at Bilal Chowrangi, Korangi Industrial Area, saw the participation of employees from several industrial enterprises.
Addressing the protesters, NTUF secretary-general Nasir Mansoor claimed that forced dismissals of workers had become a norm during the crisis, adding that around 6 million labourers have lost their job in the midst of the lockdown.
Workers take to the streets to demand rights
"It is the holy month of Ramazan and Eid is just around the corner, but factory owners are refusing to pay their workers despite the government's instructions," he pointed out, adding that over 10 million families were currently on the verge of poverty and starvation.
He further said that the Sindh government had issued a notification to protect the jobs and salaries for the workers by restricting employers from firing them, but the industrialists had flouted those orders.
Meanwhile, Textile and Garments General Workers Union general secretary Abdul Basit Jagrani pointed out that the Sindh governor had not signed the Coronavirus Emergency Relief Ordinance proposal sent to him by the provincial government for approval. He added that the ordinance could give legal protection to the notification.
"The governor has proved his traditional anti-labour mentality, while the Sindh government and the Pakistan Peoples Party leadership are silent on the issue," he asserted. "It is unfortunate to see ministers announcing that labourers' jobs would be protected but this was not done."
K-P labourers will get promised benefits soon
Blaming foreign brands and western countries for the workers' crisis, HBWWF general secretary Zehra Khan said that the government, institutions and factory owners had failed to protect the basic rights of the workers, while international brands are were playing a criminal role. "Running orders were being cancelled, causing poverty, unemployment, and social unrest not only in Pakistan but also in other countries of the global South," she stated.
The protesters demanded the prevention of workers' termination, payment of salaries, registration of all the citizens under social security and old age benefit schemes and bringing the health and education budgets on par to the defence budget.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2020.