Bare minimum: ‘The federal budget was not meant to favour workers’

Civil society and labour organisations discuss concerns on minimum wage .

Hassan Naqvi June 04, 2014
Jamil said Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had claimed in his speech that privatisation of state-owned enterprises would generate employment opportunities.


“The federal budget 2014-15 favours capitalists and the elite… not labour or women,” Rubina Jamil, president of the Pakistan Workers’ Confederation, told The Express Tribune on Wednesday. 

Jamil said Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had claimed in his speech that privatisation of state-owned enterprises would generate employment opportunities. Jamil said privatisation was being undertaken on the International Monetary Fund diktat. She opposed the privatisation of PIA, OGDG, and Pakistan Steel Mills.

Jamil said in view of the inflation, the Rs2,000 raise in the minimum wage was inadequate. She said that the government should have consulted trade unions and established a privatisation committee taking all stakeholders on board, including workers.

Awami Workers Party general secretary Shazia Khan told The Express Tribune that there should be a formula for raising the minimum wage, rather than an arbitrary announcement. She said the government should raise minimum wage to offset inflation’s impact . “It is the responsibility of the government to ensure implementation. An announcement without implementation amounts to deception,” Khan said. She said that the Rs10,000 minimum wage announced last year had not been universally implemented.

She also said that those in the corridors of power should try balancing a household in Rs12,000. “No family can make ends meet in Rs12,000,” said Khan.

“We had demanded a Rs20,000 minimum wage,” Women Workers’ Union general secretary Shaheena Kausar told The Express Tribune. She said no relief had been announced for women workers who were more vulnerable than men.

Ume Laila Azhar, executive director of HomeNet Pakistan, said “I am extremely disappointed by the budget, which again failed to incorporate the informal sector that employs 74 per cent of our labour force. They play a critical role in the country’s economy, but are undergoing the worst kind of exploitation as they are not protected by any law. The minimum wage set by the government does not apply to them as they are not recognised as labourers.”She said the budget was meant to facilitate business tycoons and the elite.

Muttahida Labour Federation general secretary Hanif Ramay said the least the government could do was to ensure that the minimum wage was implemented.

Muhammad Boota, a 45-year-old worker, told The Express Tribune that he had to feed five children and his wife, and would not be able to make the ends meet in Rs12,000 a month.

Akbar Ali, another labourer, told The Express Tribune “Two of my children are not going to school from October. It will be difficult to meet the basic needs of my family in Rs12,000. I was previously getting Rs8,000 when the minimum wage was Rs10,000.”

MNA Shaista Pervaiz Malik said “We are with the workers and understand their problems, and have drafted the best possible budget given the available. We have committed to fulfill promises made to workers before the completion of our term.”

Published in The Express Tribune, June 5th, 2014.


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