LAHORE - Bonded Labour Liberation Front (BLLF) Pakistan has announced to launch protest from May 1 to press for the demands of giving minimum wages of Rs517 per 1,000 bricks and other legitimate rights to the brick kiln workers.

Addressing a press conference here at Lahore Press Club on Tuesday, BLLF Secretary General Syeda Ghulam Fatima said that although the government issued a notification two years ago regarding payment of minimum wages of Rs517 to the brick kiln workers, it failed to get its own orders followed by the brick kiln owners.

Flanked by BLLF Programme Manager Mahar Safdar Ali and brick kiln workers representatives from various districts of Punjab, Ghulam Fatima urged the government to ensure payment of minimum wages, issuance of social security cards and computerized national identity cards to brick kiln workers. She said that if the legitimate demands were not fulfilled by April 30, brick kiln workers would have no option except launching protest movement from May 1. She said that workers would go on complete tool down strike (Sancha Chor) till fulfillment of their legitimate demands.

Referring to the conditions of the brick kilns, she said that workers were paid Rs200 to Rs250 instead of Rs517 for the last two years. She demanded that the workers should be paid Rs1,500 per thousand brick, social security cards and other benefits under workers’ welfare fold which included marriage grant of Rs200,000 for every daughter , death grant of Rs400,000 and old age benefits. She said that thousands of brick kiln workers were denied CNICs due to which they were unable to avail facilities like social security cards, medical facilities, dowry funds, old age benefits and registration.

Ghulam Fatima informed that during grand workers’ seminar in January, Labour Minister Ehsaanuddin Qureshi announced to get government’s notification implemented regarding the payment of minimum wages. When no action was taken, she said, the BLLF wrote a letter to the Labour Department Secretary and requested him to implement the orders to facilitate the workers.

“Though we had also given a deadline of March 31 to the department, no one listened to the plight of the poor workers,” Fatima lamented. She appealed to the media to support the protests so that the agencies concerned and brick kiln mafia could be forced to fulfill the workers’ demands.

Mahar Safdar Ali said that he was surprised over the continuous ignorant attitude of the government departments toward implementing their orders for the workers’ demands.

He said that the BLLF had used every method to convince the government to accept legitimate demands of the workers. “We found no solution except to protest regarding this issue,” he said, adding that protests would continue till their demands were not catered.