KARACHI - It is heartening that yet another elected government in Pakistan has completed its full term and the preparations are afoot to hold the general elections; however, it saddens that the political parties that had ruled in the Centre and in provinces did not take any step to bring a visible improvement in the lives of workers. These views were expressed by labour leaders while addressing a press conference at Karachi Press Club on Thursday.

They said that when the new general elections are going to be held in the country, priorities of political parties on labour-related issues are still unclear. These political parties are demanding vote from the workers, though there is nothing in their election manifestoes and programs for the betterment of these workers.

They said presently, there is a labour force of more than 65 million in the country, which is almost 65 percent of total number of the voters in Pakistan. In this backdrop it is worth seeing how the political parties think and behave on the problems and issues related to workers. “Today when the country is facing a worsening economic crisis, the workers consider the coming general elections very important for them and think that they should present their point of view to the political parties,” they held.

They said that in this regard the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF), Home-based Women Workers Federation (BHWWF), Inqilabi Adarsh Front (IAF) and the representatives of more than 60 other trade unions have decided to organise a Labours’ Right Movement (Mazdoor Huqooq Tahreek) and start gatherings in the localities and colonies of labours and later extend them to the other parts of the city. They will compel the political parties and their candidates to chalk out their policies related to workers and include them in their election campaign for resolving the issues of labourers, Haris and working women and to safeguard their legal rights.

They further said that almost 80 percent of the megacity Karachi is comprises localities of workers which are deprived of the basic facilities of life. The working class is waiting for their constitutional rights of housing, education, healthcare and guarantee of job.

The workers despite serving for years in factories are not accepted as legal employees. They are sacked anytime and their entry banned at the factory gate.

Labour leaders pointed out that the industrialists hire retired officers of law enforcing agencies as security officers of their factories to harass their workers. In the industrial disputes, the administration, police and rangers favour the industrialists and show anti-worker behaviour. The workers who raise voice for their rights are harassed and many of them sent to jail. Sometimes, cases under the anti-terrorist laws are lodged against the workers who struggle for labour rights. The institutions made for safeguarding the rights of workers like Labour Department, labour courts, National Industrial Relations Commission (NIRC) instead of helping workers are safeguarding the interests of factory owners. They violate the rights of workers after taking bribes.

They asked to give representation to labours in assemblies as per their population percentage. Modern labour colonies should be constructed near all industrial areas. Implementation of SIRA 2013 should be ensured for the workers of agriculture and fisheries sector. Its modalities should be designed and it should be introduced in other provinces. Like Sindh all other provinces should also accept the home-based workers as formal workers and for them all relevant labour laws should be implemented. 

Those spoke included Nasir Mansoor central deputy general secretary National Trade Union Federation (NTUF), Ghani Zaman NTUF General Secretary, Saira Feroze of Home-based Women Workers Federation, Saeeda Khatoon chairperson Association of Affectees of Baldia Factory Fire,  Gul Rehman president NTUF Sindh chapter, human rights activist Qiraat Mirza, Mushtaq Ali Shan information secretary Sindh Agricultural General Workers Union CBA,  Basit Jagirani, textile & garment general workers Union, Shahjee Rehman general secretary All Rerolling Mills General Workers Union & Riaz Abbasi of the NTUF.