The government should enhance the powers of the Punjab Social Security Institution (PESSI) to hand out penalties and fines to brick kilns that refuse to register their workers, said labour leaders at a consultative meeting here on Wednesday.
The speakers at the meeting, organised by the Support Decent Work Project (SDWP) and the Bonded Labour Liberation Front (BLLF), pledged to initiate a campaign to press the government to grant special judicial powers to the PESSI in this regard.
PESSI Deputy Director Waheed Sheikh said that under existing laws, the institution could hand out a three-month prison sentence and a fine of up to Rs4,000 to brick kiln owners who avoided registering their workplace or their workers. She said the law should be amended to enhance these penalties so they were an effective deterrent.
BLLF Secretary General Syeda Ghulam Fatima said labour organisations must make a joint strategy to ensure that all workers get social security cards from the PESSI. She thanked PESSI Commissioner Dr Sajid Yoosufani for issuing directions in writing to the officials concerned to give workers social security cover.
SDWP Manager Mehr Safdar Ali urged the PESSI to conduct a survey of brick kilns and then issue social security cards to all those who work there.
The All Pakistan Trade Unions Federation secretary sought unity among all workers in order to get their rights.
Muttahida Labour Federation Punjab President Altaf Baloch appealed to the Labour Department and the PESSI to represent workers rather than industrialists.
Anwar Farooq, Tariq Awan, Muhammad Ashraf and Sarfraz Ahmad also spoke on the occasion.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 27th, 2012.