MANDI BAHAUDDIN/SIALKOT/ TOBA TEK SINGH SINGH/ Various organizations celebrated the Labour Day on Tuesday and paid rich tributes to the Chicago martyrs who laid down their lives while demanding 8-hour working hours a day and reasonable wages.

Earlier, the several labour organisations took out walks to mark the Labour Day. The participants expressed complete solidarity with the labourers. They were carrying banners and placards in favour of their demands.

The Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Society (PESS) office-bearers gathered in front of Camp Office of the District Armed Services Board in Committee Bagh. They said proletariat and farming classes are the backbone of a country's development and economic stability. Farmers produce food items whereas workers provide services and labour for building roads and houses, they said.

"In developed countries, they are paid better wages and incentives for their hard work while working hours are eight and the government policies are workers friendly. Unfortunately in developing countries including Pakistan farmers and workers are miserably exploited," they said.

While making policies, government favours industrialists and traders, completely ignoring labourers and farming community, they said. They added retired soldiers from rank and file belong to labour and farming communities. After retirement, the speakers said, they are forced to get employment with security agencies where they have to work for 12 hours a day. The agencies pay them 8 to 12 thousand per month and do not pay for time exceeding eight hours, they regretted.

They also complained that their organisations like Fauji Foundation and armed services boards had declined to do for their welfare. Speaking about laborers working at kilns and private companies, they said they (workers) are not properly looked after and they are not provided with health facilities. They expressed solidarity with the working and farming community in their struggle for better wages and better rate for agriculture produce respectively. The PESS leaders urged the rulers to focus on the wellbeing of farmers and labourers if they really want to make the country developed and stable. There is dire need for enforcing social and legal justice in the country, they stressed.

Addressing a seminar held in Press Club Sialkot, speakers said the labourers are the capital and precious assets of the country due to which the government should ensure early end to their social and economic exploitation. The representation of the true and actual labourers in the town, district, provincial and national assemblies should also be ensured by bringing the actual labourers' representatives in the assemblies, they added.

They also urged the government to safeguard the rights of the labourers, ensure early rise in the minimum wages of the labourers as per the ratio of price hike, and increase the dowry fund, scholarships, educational stipends, marriage and death grants for the labourers and their dependents in the country.

They also demanded early regularisation of all the contract and daily wage employees. They said that the Labour Day was an international tragedy, which was observed every year as a movement for the welfare of the labourers and their dependents.

They disclosed that there was no implementation of government's orders regarding the provision of the minimum wages to the labourers. They said that no factory gives wages as per the government orders to its labourers. They expressed grave concern over this nasty situation and said that it should be an eye opener for everyone that the labourers were forced to do labour daily 12 to 14 hours in a day due to the forced pressure of the employers in the Sialkot factories.

They added that the Punjab government had not yet released the needed funds in the categories of dowry, marriage and death grants for the last three consecutive years, due to which the industrial workers, labourers and their dependents had been suffering great financial difficulties. They demanded early release of the funds for the dowry, marriage and death grants.

Local labour Leader Niaz Ahmed Naji said that May 01 was the day of the international struggle of the labourer to safeguard their rights with the renewed pledge to ensure all the individual and collective efforts for the betterment and welfare of the labourers.

Another labour leader Rasheed Ahmed urged the government to ensure maximum financial relief to the industrial workers and labourers by ensuing at least 50 percent increase in the wages of the labourers by the federal and provincial governments. He demanded Rs0.5 million financial compensation for every deceased employees' family, Rs100,000 funds for burial of the deceased labourers and their dependents and Rs100,000 funds as dowry funds.

Abdul Shakur MIrza said that the government announce the true labour policy by keeping the ground realities into consideration.

Haji Zafar Iqbal added that the labourers and industrial workers were not still being paid the minimum wages as announced by the government and the employers were still exploiting the labourers due to the non-implementation of the laws promulgated by the government for the welfare of the labourers.

Local labour leader Ch Ashraf demanded the minimum wages for the labourers equal to the price of one Tola gold in the country. He said that non-could run the household activities in Rs12,000 to 15,000 per month in skyrocketing price hike.

In Toba Tek Singh, rallies were taken out all over district to observe May Day by different trade unions and political parties. Awami Workers Party in coordination with Textile Powerloom and Garments Workers Union Punjab took out a rally from Waryam Road and ended at Shehbaz Chowk. Speaking on the occasion AWP district president Zubair Chaudhry and other labour leaders paid rich tribute to the martyrs of Chicago. They demanded a minimum wage of Rs25,000 per month for all the categories of unskilled labour against eight hours work a day.

Bhatta Mazdoor Union took out a rally from Gojra Road under the leadership of Pakistan Bhatta Mazdoor Union vice president M Shabbir and participants reached Shahbaz Chowk where PML-N MPA Mian Muhammad Rafiq addressed the gathering.

He supported the demand of the kiln workers to implement the government's notification under which kiln owners were made bound to pay Rs1,140 per 1,000 bricks to their workers.

He also demanded to set up a social security office at Toba to issue social security cards to workers. At Gojra, Irrigation Employees Power Union leader Allah Bakhsh Sial addressed a meeting of the union activists and demanded increase of 100 percent in the salaries of the lower grade employees.

Punjab Minister for Local Bodies Manshaullah Butt said that the government was ensuring early end to the social and economic exploitation of the labourers. Manshaullah said that the government was also ensuring early rise in the minimum wages of the labourers as per the ratio of price hike.