Issue of Working Classes in Pakistan

Workers are protesting on the occasion of Labour Day in Karachi
Pictures of gatherings of workers to mark Labour Day in Karachi


Working Classes Continue to Suffer as Government yet to Take Concrete Steps to Address their Issues 

Zaib Azkaar Hussain


There are very thin chances for the uplift and advancement of the working classes of the country as the government has not yet taken any concrete steps to address the serious problems of workers.

After the collapse of Soviet Union and in a way the disintegration of socialist bloc, it remains no any ideological issue to introduce healthy reforms and powerful steps to change the conditions of workers in economic terms in order to achieve the target of advancement and development of people and masses and obviously a majority of population of the country is working class either get bread on daily basis, weekly basis or in the form of monthly salary.

Rulers fail to perceive issues of workers in real terms: A careful study of the role of the past governments and the present one makes it clear that the rulers have failed to perceive the issue of workers in real terms and that was why they took very minor steps (as a matter of eyewash) steps for the welfare of workers in Pakistan. The study shows that there was not any conspiracy of the rulers towards the poor working classes but they did not bother to think serious over it. They preferred to use the ‘slogan’ to work for the workers and peasants as a way to appease working classes and to secure their votes but on coming into power a careless approach and lethargic attitude of the rulers and their aides became a great hurdle in addressing the issues of workers.

On the contrary, the ruling elite threw cold water on the logic of advancement of the working classes. The representatives of the governments even turned a deaf ear to the suggestions and advices issued time to time by the foreign bodes concerned and International Labour Organisation (ILO) for updating the labour laws and check serious violators of laws dealing with the human rights and labour in general.

Labour leaders  forget labourers when they join governments:  The governments kept up fixing their political and other economic priorities but proved to be negative in owning the working classes as a part of their rule. Interestingly a number of political leaders (regardless of their parties’ belongings) emerged as labour leaders but when joined the governments and became ministers and advisors they forgot to resolve the issues of workers. The then trade union leaders and the then collective bargaining when became the part of the government, they did not inquire about the violation of labour laws in the organisations and establishments where they had worked in the past and the workers of the same establishments had enabled them to emerge as a leader and go to the government side.  After becoming ministers, the same leaders never turned up the working class and instead they took interest to join very sound ministries to serve the people of Pakistan.

Trade Unions seems frustrated & pessimistic: Now the situation is that most of the labour leaders and representatives of trade unions and trade union federations seem to be very frustrated and pessimistic. They say that the the workers were being treated negatively in a manner that no minimum wage rate was announced for a long time (since last two years) and no any fresh laws were promulgated for covering and protection of financial rights and other benefits of industrial workers, informal workers, women workers and poor workers facing bounded labour.

The May day (International Labor Day) was marked in Karachi by the home-based women workers while organising a huge rally that demanded of the government to announce all due rights as per labor laws to the home-based women workers.

The Home-based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) in collaboration with the Edhi Foundation (EF) also staged a demonstration against the alleged violation of labour laws especially rights of women workers. Two leaders Zahra Khan and Saba Faisal Edhi accompanied by a large number of women workers marched from Regal Roundabout to Karachi Press Club.

Informal sector workers toiling in virtually inhuman conditions: Addressing the rally, Zahra Khan said that in Pakistan the workers of organized labour sector were facing huge exploitation, while the workers of informal sector including home-based workers were toiling in virtually inhuman conditions.

She further said that in Pakistan there was estimated around 68million labour force and 70percent of it belonged to the informal sector. And almost all workers are deprived of their due rights, she added.She claimed that more than 1.25 billion workers were the part of the home-based sector and a major workforce (80percent of them) consisted of female workers.

These workers were generating about Rs400million annually for national economy, she concluded.

Majority of political parties aren’t raising voice for rights of workers: Home-based Women Bangle Workers Union leader Shakeela Khan alleged that majority of the factories and industries have become sweat houses because their workers are not issued appointment letters and they were not registered with social security institutions. Besides workers were not allowed to form their trade unions. Shakeela Khan drew the attention of the workers towards the alleged negative role of political parties, adding the majority of political parties had not raised their voice for the rights of workers.

Labour department was also not interested to resolve their issues, she complained.

There is only one option for these workers to get their rights and was is to become united and organized, she concluded..

Saba Faisal Edhi observed that the struggle of women workers was praiseworthy and meaningful for the cause of social change.. She urged the women workers to get united and do struggle for their rights and be an active part of social change.

Participants demand social security for home-based workers: The rally participants demanded that social security of home-based workers should be ensured besides the other facilities of healthcare, education, jobs and pension.

They participants suggested that the women workers must be registered with labor department and their employers and contractors should also be registered with the department.

Zaib Azkaar Hussain, the author of the Editorial

:  They further demanded that discrimination in wages on the gender basis should be ended and rule of equal wages should be implemented.The protesters also demanded to address the issue of workplace harassment in the case of female workers and also bolish all discriminatory laws against women.

They demanded condemned the government to act on the dictation from IMF. They expressed deep concern over the removal of media workers in a large number. They said the sacked workers including media workers should be reinstated forthwith and their dues should also be paid to them. Women workers should be allowed maternity leave as per law and the procedure of hiring workers contract basis should be given up. The right of workers to set up their trade unions and the law to elect collective bargaining agents must revived and allowed, the participants of the rally said. They also demanded not to privatize state-run entities and organisation. They suggested to abandon the privatization commission, adding that there was no need to allow a minister to deal with the privatization matters.

The rally participants put up another demand stating “All missing persons including political, social and media workers should be recovered and those involved in their missing should be punished as per law.”

“Agricultural reforms should be introduced and government lands should be distributed amongst landless Haris (peasants) and  sexual violence on Hindu Hari (former) women should be stopped.”b They further said that the “Matter of forced marriages should be investigated and addressed properly.”

Sajjida Kausar of HBWWF, Jameela Latif from Home-based Women Bangle Workers Union, Kausar Nissa from Shahpur Chakar and others also spoke on the occasion. On the other hand, All Pakistan Local Government Workers Federation (Sindh) Secretary Akram Rajput, while addressing a meeting of workers expressed deep concern over the delay in releasing salaries and wages to employees of lower grades.

President of Water Board United Workers’ Union Punhal Magsi and general secretary Ikram Khan also addressed the meetings of workers and highlighted the issues of workers in relation to the alleged negligence of labour department and government authorities concerned in regard to the health facilities and overtime benefits of workers. The representatives of the Education Employees’ Action Committee organised a demonstration to protest against the non-payment of salaries to the employees of education department. The protesters said that the teachers affiliated with the local bodies were facing great economic hardships due to the delay in release of monthly salaries. President of Sajjan Union Syed Zulfiqar Shah while addressing the protesters said the teachers must be respected and obliged by releasing their dues dues without further delay. Shah regretted that the employees of local bodies were never paid timely. He said the employees of lower grade were facing very hard conditions and it was imperative to resolve their financial problems immediately by the higher authorities concerned.


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