Those underpaid, underage workers of factories

Updated October 12, 2014


FAISALABAD: Teenage Shehzad Ali was forced to leave his school because of poverty one year ago. Now, he helps his family with his Rs3,500 monthly income as he works at a thread factory in Faizabad.

Ali says his meager income has failed to give any visible relief to the family because of surging prices of electricity. His father works at a powerloom factory to feed seven family members.

Ali works in night shift at the factory where most of the workers are teenage boys.

He says he left the school when he was in class four. He badly misses the classroom.

“I want to play with my age fellows but can’t because of my job,” he says.

He said his father earned Rs3,000 to 4,000 weekly that was not sufficient to pay utility bills and feed the family.

Like Ali, scores of factory workers have placed their minor family members in factories to share the burden of utility bills and kitchen items.

Muzamal Hussain, 25, of Iqbal Town, said he earned Rs9,000 a month but he hardly made both ends meet, though his father and a brother also shared the household expenses.

He said factory owners were not ready to increase their wages even though the price hike and rates of electricity had affected their domestic budget squeezing their buying power.

As the government has fixed Rs12,000 monthly salary for a worker, however, most of the thread factories in Ghulam Mohammad Abad do not pay the fixed wages to workers.

Azhar, 17, who works at a factory, said he received Rs9,000 monthly.

He said power supplies had improved but they did nothing to his income. A few months ago, he worked in an embroidery factory in Jamil Town against a Rs6,000 salary. However, due to power outages, the owner gave him Rs1,200 as power losses cut his working hours.

Azhar is unaware of minimum salary for a worker is Rs12,000. He said one would not get job if insisted on fixed wages.

Waheed Khliq, a powerloom factory owner and permanent member of the Minimum Wages Board Punjab, told Dawn factories not paying the minimum fixed wages to workers were exploiting them.

He said the matter would be taken with the labour department and the Punjab government because the thread factory sector was not being monitored.

He said without fulfilling the rights of the workers, one could not move forward.

Published in Dawn, October 12th, 2014