No exploitation: ‘Firm policy needed to protect workers’ rights’

Activists say women workers should be educated about their rights.

Shamsul Islam December 02, 2014


The government must adopt an effective strategy to enforce labour laws at factories and kilns to avoid exploitation of workers, participants of a training workshop, titled Enhancing Awareness on Women Rights and Labour Laws, said on Tuesday.

The Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation (AWAM) had hosted the event at Unity Hall under the Gender Equity Programme of Aurat Foundation.

Women workers from formal and informal sectors, including factory workers, lady health workers, kiln workers, home-based workers and domestic workers attended the workshop.

They said the government must protect rights of home-based and domestic workers through ratification and implementation of International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions C-177, C-189 and C-183.

The purpose of the workshop was to educate women workers about labour rights and improve their leadership capabilities.

“A struggle for rights always achieves its goals. Women workers must unite, organise themselves under a trade union or an association, improve their knowledge and skills and initiate a struggle for the protection of their rights,” Muttahida Labour Federation general secretary Hanif Ramay said.

He demanded that the government provide identity cards, social security cards and Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution cards.

AWAM director Nazia Sardar said home-based and domestic workers lacked legal protection.

“They are guaranteed a minimum wage, social security and EOBI benefits,” Sardar said.

“The workers must be provided opportunities to market their goods without the involvement of middlemen. The process for the registration of unions in the informal sector must be simplified,” she said.

AWAM project manager Shazia George said educating women workers about labour laws should be part of efforts to protect their rights.

“They will not be able to stand for their rights if they are not given such an education.”

“Every labour policy must have a separate section for women workers that might also include timeframe and an action plan for the implementation of pro-women provisions. Women should also be represented in wages boards,” George said.

Naseem Anthony, a labour rights advocate, said organising women workers would help them raise voice against exploitation.

“There is need to take advocacy initiatives for the protection of their rights because advocacy is an effective tool to bring about a positive change in society,” Anthony said.

“Government departments, including labour, the Employees Social Security Institutions (ESSI) and the EOBI are not strong enough to effectively enforce labour laws. That is why, most factories and kilns are still unregistered depriving workers of their rights and employment benefits,” he said.

Gender Equity Programme’s Sumera Saleem urged the government to frame labour laws and policies in consultation with all stakeholders.

“Suffering of the working class will not come to an end unless they get united for their rights,” rights activist Zarfishan Nasir said.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 3rd, 2014.


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