Thousands of labourers and rights activists carried out various rallies across the city to mark the International Labour Day.
A rally organised by the working women helpline, Awami Workers’ Party, Ittehad Labour Union Carpet Industry Pakistan, Pakistan Bhatta Mazdoor Union, National Database Registration Authority Employees Union, TDCP workers and Muttaihda Labour Union marched from Lahore Press Club to Charing Cross.
They demanded the enforcement of labour laws. They also demanded that the minimum wage be raised to Rs25,000 per month, that social security cards be issued to all workers, and that rates set by the government for bricks kilns workers be enforced.
Many in the procession carried red flags, banners and placards with slogans such as ‘Red salute to the Chicago martyrs’, ‘Stop state terrorism against women’, ‘Stop privatisation’ and ‘The revolution will come’.
Awami Workers’ Party (AWP) general secretary Shazia Khan told The Express Tribune, that in 1886 the Chicago martyrs were holding white flags when they were attacked. She said these then turned red from their blood and since then have become a symbol for labourers in the class struggle.
Shamim Bibi, a 45 year old labourer said, “Anti labour clauses should be removed from the Punjab Industrial Relation Act 2010.”
Imdad Hussain, another labourer, demanded that factory and kiln workers be issued Employees Old Benefit Institution social security cards immediately.
Razia Bibi, also a labourer, said enforcement of labour laws and implementation of ILO conventions should be ensured.
Abdul Rauf of the Muttaihda Labour Union, said that in the industry where they worked 1,000 contract workers were employed. He also said that 200 Christians workers were not given food. He said they were demanding that discrimination towards minorities be ended.
Baba Jan Masih of the Bhatta Mazdor Union said they were only being paid Rs250 per thousand bricks, while their contracts said they should get Rs550 per thousand bricks.
The processions headed by labour leaders Khurshid Ahmed and Rubina Jamil joined the rally at Gulistan cinema, Abbot Road.
All Pakistan Trade Union Federation (APTUF) rally
A rally organised by the All Pakistan Trade Unions’ Federation marched from Hamdard Centre, Lytton Road to Charing Cross on the Mall.
Around 5,000 labourers from Pakistan Mazdor Ittehad, Hamdard Laboratories Waqf Pakistan Employees’ Welfare Union, Shaheen Workers Union, Husain Habib Corporation, Home Based Workers, PHA Workers’ Union, Lahore Gymkhana Workers’ Union, Brick Kiln workers, Railways Union and Muller and Phipps Private Pakistan Union participated in the rally.
They carried placards with slogans about price hike, load shedding, privatization and bonded labour. They chanted slogans for working class rights and pledged to continue their struggle until their demands were met.
APTUF general secretary Aima Mahmood stressed the importance of unity among workers.
She said that after getting GSP Plus status, the government must ensure labour rights, especially women workers’ rights.
Mahmood emphasised the need to protect women’s rights in informal sector. She asked the workers to pledge that they would continue their struggle to change their situation.
APTUF chairman Sultan Khan said Pakistani workers were hardworking and intelligent, and would never surrender before feudal lords and capitalists. He said the workers were finding it increasingly difficult to earn bread and butter for their families. “due to our low salaries, our children cannot go to schools and we lack basic health facilities,” he said.
Fazal Wahid, Munir Dogar, Nasir Mahmood, Salma Liaqat, Muhammad Usman, Shaukat Ali and other labour leaders also spoke on the occasion.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 2nd, 2014.
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