Labour rights: Fair wage, job security for workers demanded

Govt asked to help workers live a life free of debt and violence.

Shamsul Islam May 02, 2014
A daily wage labourer sits in wait for employment. PHOTO: FILE


“The government must calculate the cost of living in Pakistan and fix workers’ wages accordingly,” participants of a protest rally by Living Wage Campaign said on Thursday.

The Peace and Human Development Foundation (PHDF), the Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation (AWAM), the Adara Samaji Behbood (ASB) and the Pakistan Interfaith Peace Council and Human Rights (PIFCHR) had organised the rally in front of the Faisalabad Press Club.

The protesters said the government must take steps to help workers live a life of dignity, free of debt, bondage and violence.

They said the government must ratify International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions protecting rights of home-based workers (ILO C-177) and domestic workers (ILO C-189).

They said the government must regularise services of its workers and extend social and legal protection coverage to them.

They criticised the government’s policy of announcing a Rs1,000 raise for workers every Labour Day.

Punjab Assembly member Najma Afzal said the government was committed to protecting labourers’ rights. She said it had been taking appropriate measures to improve working conditions and implement labour policies.

She said the government would soon regularise the workers lacking a statutory cover.

PHDF Director Sunil Malik said the living wage was the “minimum income necessary for a worker to meet basic needs of his family and maintain a decent standard of living”.

“Pakistan’s labour class is among the world’s most underpaid and overworked groups.

It fails to come out of poverty despite working.

AWAM Director Nazia Sardar said home-based workers needed job security, income security and social security. She said they did not have social and legal protection despite their contribution to the economy.

“The government must adopt a policy and make laws for the recognition of home-based workers... and guarantee their access to social security benefits,” she said.

Shazia George, a rights activist, said the government must approve a legislation presented in the Senate on domestic workers’ rights, and ratify an ILO convention (ILO C-189) protecting rights of domestic workers.

Irshad Parkash, a social activist, said most employers had not registered their workers with the Employees Old-age Benefits Institution; therefore they were deprived of pension and other job benefits.

The Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation also arranged a conference titled Visibility and Protection of Informal Labour Force: Challenges, Achievements and Opportunities.

Speakers urged the government to protect workers from exploitation, violence and bondage.

They asked the authorities to regularise “most unprivileged members of society” engaged in informal sectors including peasant workers, domestic workers and home-based workers.

Asim Sajjad Akhtar said in order to prevent economic exploitation of the labour class, workers from all sectors must unite.

“An ideology without action is meaningless… the working class must promote an ideological thinking.”

Sardar said more than 10 million women workers in Pakistan were home-based. They are working in several sectors, including garments, bangles, shoes, embroidery and carpet weaving.

“In spite of their contributions to the national economy, they are denied legal rights, including a minimum wage guarantee, social security and EOBI benefits.”

Shazia George, a rights activist, said domestic workers were being exploited in the hands of employers for not having the status of a worker in labour codes of Pakistan.

“They have to brave discrimination in terms of low wage, additional working hours and harassment at the workplace.”

Published in The Express Tribune, May 2nd, 2014.


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