LAHORE: The working class on Tuesday observed International Workers Memorial Day to highlight the importance of prevention of accidents and deaths of labourers at workplace, particularly in mines and electricity, textile, engineering, chemical and construction and transport sectors.

Representatives of constituent trade unions of All Pakistan Workers Confederation (APWC) from all over Punjab gathered at Labour Hall to renew their pledge to continue creating awareness among employees and employers about the significance of a safe and healthy workplace.

The representatives said matters pertaining to labour should be viewed as social issues while labour leaders should visit heirs of victims of industrial accidents to see whether the promises of payment of compensation or provision of employment to kin of victims were fulfilled.

They said absence of effective labour inspection, rising poverty and unemployment, contract system and non-implementation of minimum wages had ruined the traditional precautionary mechanism. Scores of people worked at premises but without documents of the factory and subsequently no rights. Workers were being exploited in the name of meeting export orders and were not even allowed to go home at night when the employer gets a big order.

APWC Chairman Yousuf Baloch, Punjab President Rubina Jamil, Additional General Secretary Osama Tariq and others urged the government to fix minimum wages in the forthcoming federal budget at Rs25,000 and pension at Rs15,000 per month.

Baloch demanded the Finance Ministry release billions of rupees collected from employers and Workers Welfare Fund under Companies Profit (Workers Participation) Act 1968 to the provincial governments to ensure provision of residential facilities, education to the children of workers and launching of other welfare schemes for the labour force.

Rubina called for provision of full medical facilities to industrial workers after attaining superannuation under the Social Security Employees Institution.

APWC General Secretary Khurshid Ahmed said unsafe working conditions resulted in colossal human and national material loss, while a safe and healthy workplace increased productivity. A number of tragedies at factories had testified that the government and employer had miserably failed to fulfil their legal obligations to ensure safety of workers at workplace, he said, adding employers should be given technical assistance to prevent recurrence of such fatal incidents in future.

Published in Dawn, April 29th, 2015

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