LAHORE: A 16-year old working in a shop, a former hospital aaya who now works as domestic help and a middle aged guard have one thing in common despite the difference in age and experience: All of them do not get the minimum wage that was promised by Prime Minister Gilani in May this year.
Aijaz who works in a shop in a shopping mall on The Mall Rs5,000 per month. He works e whe wo10 hours a day and gets one meal on the job. Eid brings with it a bonus of Rs3,000.
Masi Nazeeran works in a house in Muslim Town. She is paid Rs4,000 for the work she does from 8 am to 5 pm, six days a week.
This is the maximum she has made in the 6 years she has worked as a maid.
Ali, a guard of a private firm, said, “I get Rs7,500 monthly, for working 10-hour shifts, six days a week.”
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had announced on Labour Day that the minimum wage for the unskilled would be Rs7,000. However, the implementation still seems far away.
Farooq Tariq, the spokesperson of the Labour Party Pakistan, said, “Almost 70 per cent labourers in factories are getting less than the minimum wage fixed by the government. Those who are paid Rs7,000 work for 12 hours instead of 8, which again is not implementing the order because they do not get paid overtime.” Tariq added that the lack of implementation was because “there is no body to enforce the order”. “The chief minister’s aversion to labour unions in factories also makes the exploitation of workers easy,” he said.
“The government only notifies a few factories when the minimum wage is revised. It is just an announcement. There is no implementation,” said the National Trade Union Federation general secretary Niaz Khan.
“In 2003, the then chief minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi took away the Labour Welfare Department’s powers to inspect factories. The government has changed but that ban is still on,” he added.
Khan said that the Punjab Labour Minister Ashraf Sohna inspected two factories – one in Chiniot and the other in Daroghawala – with the help of the police after the factory owner did not let him enter the premises. “Now the factory owner has filed a case against officials of the labour ministry in September 2010,” the general secretary said.
Hajra, who works at a hosiery factory on Ravi Road, is paid Rs200 per day for an 8-hour shift. Out of this she spends Rs60 on commuting. According to her, “The money I make barely puts food on the table. For all other expenditure, I seek Zakat or ask some people I know for financial help.”
Aima Mehmood, the Working Women Organisation director said, “Most of the factories do not issue appointment letters and the unregistered worker can be exploited easily.”
District Officer Labour, Zaigham Abbas Mazhar, said that his hands were tied unless the workers decided to stand up and fight.
“We can only take action if somebody files a written complaint against their employer. When we have a complaint, we file a case and prosecute,” Mazhar said.
But most of the workers do not want to complain because that means they won’t have the job, even the one that pays less than the promised Rs7,000. “I’m afraid of being dismissed if I demand a fair wage or complain. Then where will I go?” said Ali.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 11th, 2010.
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