7 Crore Pakistani workers still without basic rights: Speakers

Karachi: Pakistan is amongst the countries where violation of labor laws is a routine matter. Pakistan has already ratified more than 38 International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions but still more than 7 Crore workforce in the country is still without their basic rights, said the speakers of a big labor moot here on Sunday.

The moot entitled “Textile Garments Workers Convention” was held here in Korangi Industrial Area under the banner of National Trade Union Federation (NTUF). It was presided over by President NTUF Sindh chapter Comrade Gul Rehman, while a large number of workers attended it.

The speakers said that the workers of textile and garments sector earn more than 60 percent of the national foreign exchange, but these workers are toiling in factories where work conditions are even worse than slavery. They said without giving workers their due rights the country could not attain a progress, and democracy cannot flourish.

Nasir Mansoor, general secretary NTUF Pakistan, in his speech, said that millions of workers of textile and garment sector are deprived of their basic rights. He said less than one percent of Pakistani workers enjoy the right of making labor unions and electing collective bargaining agents. He said that less than 5 percent of Pakistani labors are registered with social security and pension institutions. He said that more than 90percent industrial and other organizations are not even registered with the related labor institutions. He said minimum wages for unskilled workers are not being paid even to the skilled workers.

Nasir Mansoor said that only 3 percent workers have got written appointment letters. He said in textile and garments sector, illegal and inhuman contract work system is in vogue. This system has converted our workers into modern day slaves. He said local factories working for international brands are forcing their labor to work for 200 hours forced monthly overtime for wages of only 48 hours, which is just illegal.

He said the international brands in connivance with the local industrialists have violated local and international labor laws and standards. He said growing lawlessness in factories and workplaces would force workers to opt for a resistance movement. He said sadly the government is safeguarding the interests of industrialists. He said the opposition parties have to pledge for defending the rights of labors so that their pro-democracy movement could get a success.

Karamat Ali, convener National Labor Council, said that workers are being forced to toil in unsafe working conditions, where industrial mishaps have become an order of the day. He said we have not learnt any lesson from the tragedy of Baldia factory fire. He said the National Industrial Relations Commission (NIRC) has become a killer of labors and now it is attacking the provincial autonomy and this commission should be abolished as soon as possible.

Habibuddin Junaidi, president Peoples Labor Bureau, said it is a serious matter that labor laws are present but not being implemented. He said all institutions should play their due role in proper implementation of labor laws. He said these institutions were made to safeguard the interests of labors, but sadly they are safeguarding the interests of industrialists.

Zahra Khan, general secretary Home Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF ) Pakistan said worsening working conditions and prolonged labor hours in textile and garment factories are not only violation of local labor laws but also they are against the GSP Plus agreement. She said the international fashion brands have adopted a criminal silence over the issue as they are earning billion of rupees. These brands are also befooling their buyers in Europe and North America. These brands had promised with the Global Framework Agreement (GFA) that the local factories making products for them would allow their workers to make labor unions besides providing them better wages, better working conditions and social security, but their local factories are still sweathouses.

Other speakers included Owais Jatoi, Ghulam Nabi, Aqib Hussain, Shah Faisal and Rehmat Baloch.

On the occasion NTUF office-bearers for Korangi industrial area were also elected.

The convention demanded that all workers should be given right to make their labor unions and elect their collective bargaining agents. They demanded written appointment letters for all workers. They said workers should be registered with social security and EOBI and the cards of these institutions should be directly issued to the workers. They asked that unskilled workers should be paid minimum wages as per the announcement of government. They demanded to take legal action against all factories forcing labors to work more than 48 hours a week.

It was also demanded to end illegal contract labor system. Workers should be given all their rights as pledged with the European Union under GSP Plus. Universal Social Security should be introduced urgently. Local factories making products for international fashion brands should implement the agreements with labor organization under the Global Framework Agreements.

Instead of anti-worker private social auditing, proper labor inspection system should be introduced. Factory owners should be barred from using law enforcing agencies in case of industrial disputes. Industries, especially textile and garment industries, should be given subsidy in gas and electricity. Zero rating system should be revived. Modern labor colonies should be erected in Korangi, Site and other industrial zones on government expenses. In all industrial zones of Karachi roads should be repaired and proper public transport system provided.

They demanded that health and education facilities should be provided in neighborhoods of workers. Wages should be increased in proportion of price hike. Government subsidy should be given on edibles, electricity and gas. They demanded to stop implementing the anti-people agenda of international lending institutions, especially the IMF.