LAHORE - Workers and activists of various non-government organisations marked May Day on Tuesday with rallies in Lahore and other cities of the country, calling upon the government to address labour issues.

The city’s central procession was taken out from Hamdard Hall on Lytton Road to Lahore High Court building under the banner of the All Pakistan Trade Union Federation (APTUF).

Holding banners and placards inscribed with demands, a large number of workers including women from different industrial units took part in the march. A good number of domestic workers was part of the gathering. The participants chanted slogans against inflation, forced labour, unemployment, poverty, contract labour system and exploitation of workers and called for reforms.

APTUF General Secretary Aima Mahmood and other labour leaders, including Sultan Khan, Fazal-e-Wahid, Salma Liaqat, Nasir Mahmood, and Munir Dogar addressed the rally.

Aima, who also heads Working Women’s Organisation (WWO), criticised the government for not addressing issues of labourers, farmers, unemployed youth and women workers.

She highlighted the plight of female employees at workplaces. She said the government failed to stop child labour despite tall claims and a large number of children could be seen working at factories, baking units, brick kilns and other places.

According to her, both government and opposition were equally responsible for the problems of labourers. She also blamed political parties for not highlighting labourers and farmers’ issues in policy marking process. Both sectors, she said, make around 80 per cent of the country’s population. Aima, on this occasion, called for unity among workers. Without unity, she said, workers could not succeed in getting their rights.

It was matter of great concern, she added, that labour class badly failed to get their rights in past decades despite large increase in number of trade unions in Pakistan. The reason for the failure, she said, was division in their ranks. Aima also demanded participation of male and female workers in the policy making process. All government plans in the past for bringing reforms in labour and agriculture sectors, badly failed because of the absence of main shareholders (labour unions) in the policy making process.

The workers of Railways Workers’ Union, Working Women Organisation, Shaheen Workers Union, Miller and Flips Union, Hamdard Union, Ittehad Union, Model Town Society, Labour Colony Association, Unilever Union and others participated in the march.

Jamaat-e-Islami chief Sirajul Haq visited Railways Washing Line, Garhi Shahu, where he addressed the gathering of labourers and shed light on the rights of labourers.

PPP leaders Qamar Zaman Kaira and Chaudhry Manzoor Ahmed also addressed PPP workers outside Lahore Press Club and criticised government’s policies for laboruers.

The National Students Federation and People’s Democratic Front led a torch bearer rally in front of the Lahore Press Club on May Day.

Labour wing of the Pakistan Muslim League Punjab also marked the May Day and arranged a ceremony at Muslim League House to mark the Labour Day . Markets remained closed in the city in connection with May Day.

Labour Day was observed with the renewed pledge to acknowledge and promote dignity of labour. Workers mark May Day to commemorate the Haymarket Affairs incident, which occurred in Chicago on May 4, 1886. The World Labour Organisations later called for celebrating the day on May 1. The May Day is a public holiday in many countries, including Pakistan