HARIPUR: Industrial workers, mainly women, are exposed to difficult working conditions which are detrimental to their well-being and could prevent them from contributing to the national economy.
This was said by speakers while addressing the Women Workers Convention arranged by the Rural Development Project (RDP) in Haripur on Thursday. The event was attended by factory owners, industrial workers, teachers and home-based workers.
During the convention, industrial workers and teachers shared concerns about their working conditions.
Tahira Bibi, an industrial worker, said many women face gender discrimination and are paid below the minimum wage.
“We have also been deprived of ESSI, EOBI and other facilities which we are entitled to under labour laws,” she stated. ESSI is the Employee Social Security Institution while EOBI is a body that provides old age benefits.
Another industrial worker, Mukhtiar Bibi, claimed there are no separate toilets and changing rooms for women at the factory she works for.
“There are also very few transport facilities made available to women who live far away from the factory,” she added.
According to Shah Bibi, women are paid between Rs6,000 to Rs8,000 a month rather than the minimum wage of Rs15,000.
“Our employers force us to declare that we are paid Rs12,000 whenever a labour department official visits our factory,” she said.
Speaking on the occasion, Akhtar Jan, a teacher at a private school in Haripur, drew attention to gender discrimination faced by women teachers.
“A woman teacher with an undergraduate or postgraduate qualification is paid Rs1,000 to Rs2,000,” she said. “However, they are forced to declare that they are paid Rs10,000 every month.”
According to Jan, teachers who question this practice are sacked immediately.
The fight for rights
RDP executive director Muhammad Ahsan Khan said the laws dealing with the rights of women in the workplace need to be implemented in letter and spirit.
“If the laws are insufficient, they should be revamped and made compatible to international laws and the needs of workers,” said Muhammad Ahsan.
According to Sadaqat Khan, a rights activist, said women workers contribute 23% of the country’s GDP.
Speaking on the occasion, Qamar Hayat, the executive director of SAHARA Foundation, said women workers must be made aware of their labour rights.
“The government should consult workers and submit recommendations for new labour policy,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 2nd, 2014.