On Sunday the Sindh Hari Mazdoor conference called for minimum wages to be fixed at Rs25,000 per month, as well as cut in defence spending and increase in health and education budgets. People want jobs and healthcare, and the state and establishment in the past decade had been negligent and distracted. The minimum wage for unskilled workers currently in the Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is Rs10,000 per month, while in Balochistan it is Rs9,000. A monthly income of Rs10,000 translates into Rs73.52 (less than one dollar) per person per day in the household. The numbers are even worse when one considers the vast number of workers who are working below the minimum wage.

Responses of the political parties do not even come near to solving labour problems. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif wants to announce the first-ever labour policy for the Punjab, and inaugurate the construction of the Labour Welfare Complex on Labour Day. The Sharifs are only good at building concrete jungles, often against the will of the population. People need sustainable job opportunities and better wages. PPP in line with its traditional mandate has been very vocal about the rights it has tried to afford to the working classes. But it is time for the party to look at itself in the mirror and answer for the rising corruption in its top tiers as well as it falling popularity in Sindh and the Punjab. With building roads, public transport and sealing million dollar deals, even if their focus is misplaced, the PML-N is a party on the move while the PPP is stagnant.

PPP Punjab President Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo has criticised a provincial government plan for a mass transit rail project for the city and said that it showed that the government’s economic policies were favourable only for big cities and ignored the interests of small towns and villages. But he needs to be reminded that this vacuum that the PML-N’s economic right-winging has created was for the PPP to fill in the Punjab. The PPP has squandered its chance to become the party for the working classes in the last half decade. It had the mandate, and it had the last government. It failed to capitalise on its advantages.

And about the PTI and MQM? One wonders if these parties even know that it is Labour Day today.