Nation-wide campaign urged to stop precarious work

Karachi: Representatives of labour unions belonging to different parts of the country expressing concern on precarious work practices in industries, factories and workplaces in Pakistan, have urged to launch a country-wide campaign to stop precarious work.

They were speaking at a two-day training workshop on “Precarious Work and its Effects on Workers; Rights” at a local hotel, organized by affiliates of Industrial Global Union in Pakistan.

They said that in developed countries, government are taking efforts to provide more and more decent work opportunities to their working communities, while in the developing countries like Pakistan the work conditions are being further deteriorated and the culture of precarious work promoted to earn maximum profits at the cost of workers’ rights.

Joint Director, Labour Department, Government of Sindh, Ali Ashraf Naqvi said the provincial government is committed to change the precarious work with the decent work. He said all genuine rights of the labours are being safeguarded. He said the labour department of Sindh is in contact with all stakeholders to facilitate the workers and also solving the problems of industrialists. He said to ensure proper factory inspection process new labour inspectors have been recruited. He said the draft of health and safety policy for industrial sector of Sindh province is in final stage and soon this policy would be implemented in letter and spirit.

They said those workers are called precarious workers who fill permanent job slots in factories and work places but are not treated as permanent works nor given salaries, perks and rights of the permanent workers as per labour laws. These workers have to content with unstable employment, lower wages and more dangerous working conditions. They precarious workers are often denied the right to join a union or form their own union. They often do not opt for being organized in unions because their jobs are not permanent and they are easily replaceable. Unemployed youth, women, minorities and migrant workers mostly perform precarious work. The growing outsourcing of work, contractor labour system and cheap home-based work culture have increased the malpractice of precarious work in Pakistan, especially its industrial cities like Karachi, Faisalabad, Lahore, Sialkot, Multan and Hyderabad.

Lala Sultan Khan of Mine Labours Federation who had come from Balochistan said the mining sector depicts the actual scenario of precarious work in Pakistan. He said the work conditions of mines are the worst with no provision of health and safety of workers. He said even the laws of land governing the issues of workers in the country are not being implemented. He said the situation could only be changed with the unity of workers. He urged the labour leaders of whole Pakistan to forge unity and raise a stronger voice for the rights of workers.

Nasir Mansoor, Deputy General Secretary of the NTUF said it was hoped Top of Form that GSP-plus status given to Pakistan would not only boost Pakistani exports and create new jobs but also help in improving working conditions of labours as the government and industrialists have to follow 27 international convention regarding basic human rights and labour laws. He said, however, both the government and industrialists are not serious to fulfil their respective obligations under the GSP+. He warned it is necessary to implement these conventions, otherwise, the GSP+ status could be withdrawn and that would be disastrous for the national economy.

In the industrial sector of Pakistan, particularly textile and garments, footwear and glass bangle industries, majority of workers perform precarious work. Even the factories in Pakistan mostly are not registered under the Factory Act and millions of workers face precarious work even if they work inside these factories. Under the GSP+ status 23perecent Pakistani products exported to the European Union would be free from any duty, while the remaining 77percent exports would have nominal duties. As a result, Pakistan would get more than US$1billion foreign exchange with 14.5percent rise annually. In the next five years the forex from Pakistani textile products would increase from US$13billion to US$26billion. According to a government estimate more than 1million people would get employment in this sector. However, there is no visible improvement in the living standard for workers and giving them the fruits of GSP+ status till the State initiates solid planning in this regard.

HBWWF general secretary Zehra Khan in a presentation on precarious work said the main characteristics of the precarious work are low wages, no job security, lack of access to social protection and benefits usually associated with full-time standard employment and lack of or limited access of workers to exercise their rights at work.

NTUF President Mohammad Rafiq said labour unions have to take serious steps for education of workers at plant level. He said precarious labour is amongst the major issues faced by Pakistani workers. Permanent employment has shifted to precarious jobs through outsourcing, use of employment agencies, and inappropriate classification of workers as “short-term” or “independent contractors.”

Companies worldwide are shirking their legal obligations to workers by replacing permanent jobs with contract and temporary work.   It needs world-wide support initiatives to replace precarious work with decent, family supporting jobs.

Overall, the precarious work badly affects the rights of workers. When there is precarious work, labours get poor wages, insecure employment and no legal and social security cover. They do not even dream of social security, EOBI, pension, healthcare and insurance facilities. There is no health safety at work, no vocational training and no trade unions or collective bargaining agents to fight for the due rights of workers.

Pakistan is signatory of many core conventions of ILO, UN Charter on Human Rights and International Covenant on Economic and Social Rights. The constitution of the Pakistan and its labour laws are also there to safeguard the genuine rights of the workers; however, majority of these laws and conventions are simply not implemented.

Informal sector is growing rapidly in Pakistan like other developing countries. The informal workers do not have protection of labour laws or work security. The informal labours in Pakistan include agricultural worker, teachers, power looms workers, carpet workers, hawkers/vendors, street vendors/ waste pickers, domestic workers and home based workers.

Pakistan’s economy is mainly dominated by the informal sector. There are about 20 million informal workers in Pakistan and 12 million of them are women. However, these women are generally excluded from the mainstream economic, social and political activities.

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