LAHORE: No country can progress without giving people their rights, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Provincial Assembly Member Shaista Pervaiz said on Friday.
She was speaking at a convention organised by the Bonded Labour Liberation Front in connection with Labour Day. Various demonstrations were staged across the city on this account. Pervaiz said she agreed with the workers’ demand for better wages especially for those employed in the informal economy and at brick kilns. She assured them that some of their grievances would be redressed under the first-ever labour policy for the province. “It is just a small step...better things will follow. Workers have made it clear to the government that they will not rest till their demands were met,” Pervaiz said.
Senator Mir Hasil Bizenjo, the president of the National Party, questioned the government’s commitment to the working class. He said those in power were not cognisant of the everyday challenges confronting the common man as they were accustomed to leading markedly different lifestyles. “They know nothing about your hunger, your problems and are not part of your struggle,” Bizenjo said. He said workers would never be in a position to remedy their problems without making their struggle political. “You need to seize control back through the ballot by electing those who will stand up for your rights,” Bizenjo said.
BLLF secretary general Syeda Ghulam Fatima said the government had failed to implement conventions of the International Labour Organisation despite being given the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) Plus status. She demanded the government implement core ILO conventions on bonded labour, right to form a trade union, collective bargaining, minimum wage, child labour and equal pay. “The government needs to eliminate bonded labour if it wants the nation to retain the status,” Fatima said.
Fatima, Bizenjo and other leaders of the National Party led workers present on the occasion to Charing Cross following the convention’s conclusion. The workers carried placards demanding payment of Rs1,500 per 1,000 bricks at the very least.
The demand for proper wages was common to all events organised in connection with Labour Day. The National Trade Unions Federation Pakistan, workers from the Sohrab and Packages factories demanded minimum wage to be raised to Rs25,000. They gathered near the Press Club and demanded officials from the Labour Department comprehensively inspect factories. The workers said labour leader Abdul Rauf had not been reinstated at the Packages despite a labour court verdict to that effect. They demanded the government make it binding on labour courts to decide cases within three months. NTUFP chairman Yousaf Baloch said the government should introduce worker-friendly legislation.
“Workers in Pakistan continue to face the very challenges that bedevilled those in Chicago. Labour Day is marked every year in their memory,” All Pakistan Trade Unions Federation general secretary Aima Mehmood said while addressing a rally organised by the union and the Working Women’s Organisation. She said most workers did not have set working hours and ended up labouring for up to 12 hours. Mehmood said only five per cent of workers in the nation were unionised while the figure for women on this account stood at a dismal one per cent. The demand to raise minimum wage to Rs25,000 per month was also raised by workers on the occasion.
All Pakistan Workers’ Confederation (CBA) secretary general Khurshid Ahmed spoke against the planned privatisation of state-owned enterprises while addressing a massive rally organised by the confederation near Alhamra on The Mall. Ahmed said the government had introduced policies to promote capitalism instead of enacting far-reaching socio-economic reforms. He said the bogey of privatisation was being employed by those in government to sell state assets for cheap to their friends and relatives.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 2nd, 2015.
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