Karachi: Millions of workers in Pakistan today are living a life of modern-day slave, as there is no concept of decent work in our society. The decent work is the availability of employment in conditions of freedom, equity, human security and dignity, and the lack of decent work conditions robs workers from not only their due legal rights but also human dignity.
Decent work is the cornerstone of giving workers their due rights and treating them as a human being, says Nasir Mansoor, deputy general secretary of National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) Pakistan, adding without it we cannot claim to be living in a civilized society. He said in our society the workers including women workers are treated as menial tools used to maximize the profit of tycoons. They work on extremely low daily wages or on piece rate in very unhealthy work conditions without any inbuilt safety mechanisms. They face all sorts of harassment, neglect, humiliation and cruelty and the government departments related to human rights and labour laws deliberately turn the blind eye towards them.
According to International Labour Organization (ILO), the decent work sums up the aspirations of people in their working lives. It involves opportunities for work that is productive and delivers a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for families, better prospects for personal development and social integration, freedom for people to express their concerns, organize and participate in the decisions that affect their lives and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men.
Nasir Mansoor said in 95percent of Pakistan factories the law of minimum wages is blatantly violated. The workers of these factories cannot freely form their trade unions and collective bargaining agents to defend their constitutional and legal rights. He said the system of labour inspection has been in limbo in Sindh for past 10 years and factory owners have been given a free hand to sweep all local and international labour standards beneath the carpet. He said health and safety conditions are nowhere in Pakistani industries. As a result the workers brave tragedies like Ali Enterprises Garment Factory Karachi where hundreds of workers were burnt alive due to lack of fire fighting and safety systems.
A Q Mujaid of Tehreek-e-Istaqlal Pakistan said it is a bitter reality that many political parties do not give needed attention to the rights of workers. They are only interested in getting their votes, but when it is the matter of workers’ rights including the decent work conditions, majority of the politicians only give them lip-service. He said millions of workers in Pakistan, especially its industrial hub of Karachi are devoid of their rights. He said the idea of decent work is not known even to many education people. He said many of Pakistani factories and workplaces are no more their sweatshops and slavery dens. He said we must have to accept that labors are also human beings and they have human dignity and respect like other people living in society.
According to a study commissioned by the UK-based Decent Work and Labour Standards Forum the decent work is also in some ways related to poverty reduction. It says for many poor people, work is a major route for escaping poverty. However, economic growth does not inevitably result in more and better jobs. The majority of poor people in the developing world already have jobs: the problem is that these are predominantly in the informal economy, where conditions are usually insecure and incomes inadequate. Eradicating poverty is therefore not solely a question of generating economic growth and employment opportunities but rather making sure that both the quantity and quality of available work is such that it can lead to poverty reduction. In this regard, the Decent Work Agenda, developed by the ILO, proposes an approach to development that emphasizes fair and sustainable working opportunities. Decent work is conceptualized as having four constituent pillars, which are interdependent and mutually reinforcing.
They are access to productive employment and income opportunities; rights at work, particularly with respect to the core labour standards; systems of social protection; and a voice at work through social dialogue. The Decent Work Agenda therefore is an approach to development that emphasizes employment that is accompanied by rights, representation and protection. While decent work is applicable to both developed and developing countries, different elements may need greater focus depending on the particular challenges in a given region, country, sector or workplace.
Importantly, decent work represents an approach to development as well as an outcome. The Decent Work Agenda entails building respect for international labour standards and social dialogue into development processes, rather than seeing them as a future goal or inevitable outcome of economic development. This is not only a question of social justice, but also an important contributory factor to social and economic development: in many ways, labour standards and social dialogue help to enable development processes, by encouraging stronger standards of governance and promoting social development.
Altaf Shakoor, president of citizens’ rights body, Pasban, said the decent work is a must to give rights to Pakistani workers. He said harassment of workers, especially women workers, should be ended. Health and safety standards should be followed at workplaces to saves lives and limbs of workers. He said not only the basic rights of workers but all Pakistani masses are being exploited. They call us free citizens, but still we are salves of exploitation-based systems. He said Pakistan needs drastic changes and transformation and giving our workers a decent work culture would be the first step of this long journey. He said not only the workers but whole civil society has to wage a war to defend their rights including the right of decent work.
All Pakistan Association of Small Traders and Cottage Industries (APAOSTCI) Karachi chapter, President Mehmood Hamid said workers are not given due rights in our society. He said the inhuman exploitation of workers should be stopped. He said the main cause of this exploitation is corruption of rulers. He said not only our workers are denied their rights to the decent work but millions of poor Pakistani masses are robbed of their basic human rights. He said giving workers a decent work culture in a long run would help boosting economy and trade and help in the progress and prosperity of the country.