Home based workers call for amendment in social security laws

KARACHI: More than four million home-based workers are deprived of their basic rights to be provided by government as provided to regular factory employees through EOBI and Sindh Employees Social Security Institution (SESSI).

This was stated by participants of a consultative meeting on rights of home-based workers, organized by Home Based Women Workers Federation at a local hotel on Tuesday.

The participants include Sindh Labour Department Director Gulfam Nabi Memon, Director SESSI Contribution and Benefit Department, Samina Saeed, HBWWF General Secretary Zahra Khan, Pakistan Workers Confederation Vice President Rafiq Baloch, National Trade Union Federation Deputy General Secretary Nasir Mansoor, Home Based Women Bangle Workers Union General Secretary Jameela Abdul Latif and representatives of women home-based workers associations.

The participants said that a draft for national labour policy was pending with Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah to get his nod. They called for immediate approval of draft as it would pave way for legislation on the issue which would be helpful to provide facilities to home-based workers.

Home-based women workers demanded that the Sindh government should chalk out laws and a “work policy” to improve the working conditions of home-based workers. The speakers said the International Labour Organisation (ILO) had asked its member states to rectify the Home Work Convention-177 so that the home-based workers could also enjoy the facilities like the workers of the organised labour sector.

They said that the GSP plus status given by European Union to Pakistan till 2017 could be withdrawn if no progress was made for the betterment of home-based workers who share majority of the exports to EU countries. It is pertinent to mention here that the GSP Plus status allows almost 20 per cent of Pakistani exports to enter the EU market at zero tariff and 70 per cent at preferential rates.

The labour leaders said the home-based women workers were playing a crucial role in the national economy but they were still deprived of all basic facilities and rights. They said that in the 21st century, they work along with their families 12 to 16 hours a day, but hardly earn a meagre Rs4,000 to 5,000 per month as there was no minimum wage for these workers. Working in dangerous sectors, these home-based workers suffer from health problems due to exposure to harmful chemicals, but there are no medical facilities for their treatment from their employers or government, as they are not “labourers according to law”.

The speakers said the employers, contractors and middlemen often exploited the home-based workers because their working hours were not determined as per labour laws. The relationship between employers and workers was missing due to the globalisation policies, which allowed employers to escape from their responsibilities.

Meanwhile, government representatives Samina Saeed and Ghulam Nabi Memon assured the participants that the government would consider suggestions given by the home-based works.

Gulfam said that the home-based workers do not fall under the social security rules, however, he said that they should be added to get equal benefits like other employees of registered organizations. “Government is willing to amend social security laws and hopefully the home-based workers will get their due share in it,” he said.

Moreover, Samina Saeed said stressed on the need of new laws and said that current laws could not accommodate amendments for home-based workers. She said that new laws should be made to provide benefits and recognition to home-based workers.

Meanwhile a seven member committee comprising representations from home-based workers association, government officials and trade unions was formed for to devise a strategy for bringing home-based workers in the net of social security.

The committee comprised of U.R. Osmani from Pakistan Employees Federation, Mohammad Rafiq, Nasir Mansoor, Vice President HBWWF Shehla, Samina Saeed and Gulfam.

The next meeting of the committee was convened on April 10 to review the progress on the matter.

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