Change is not possible without the participation of workers and labourers in the struggle for securing their rights, Jawad Ahmed, founding president of the International Youth and Workers’ Movement (IYWM), said on Thursday.
He was addressing a rally held to mark the Labour Day at the Charing Cross. The IYWM, the Labour Welfare Federation of Pakistan (LWFP), the Pakistan National Trade Unions’ Federation and the Kissan Ittehad members participated in the rally.
Ahmed stressed the need for changing mindsets.
Umar Saleemi, the LWFP president said that the workers’ movement was at its weakest now despite the existence of a large number of prominent organisations. “These organisations are actually not working for the welfare of the workers,” he said. Separately, a women workers’ convention was organised by the USAID, the Aurat Foundation and HomeNet Pakistan. Speakers at the event reiterated the demand for a consolidated policy for home-based workers.
Umme Laila Azhar, the HomeNet Pakistan executive director, said that workers had waged a long struggle to get their rights.
“In 1884, workers had to work 10 hours a day. Female workers were also paid less than men at that time,” she said. She said that Pakistan’s home-based workers should be provided social security cover. “They must be given the right to unionise,” she said.
A charter of demands was also presented at the event. The demands were: home-based works should be provided with opportunities to sell their goods without the involvement of middlemen; the government should ratify International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions C-177 and C-189; the government should simplify the processes of registration of unions in the informal sector; local government elections should be held without any delay; and women workers in the informal sector should set the minimum wages.
The participants also demanded that October 20 be celebrated as the national day for home-based workers.
The Bonded Labour Liberation Front, the All Pakistan Workers’ Confederation, the National Trade Union Federation and the Pakistan Workers’ Federation will hold similar events today to mark the Labour Day.
Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif is going to announce the labour policy.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st, 2015.