HYDERABAD: Speakers at a consultative meeting have advised the government and industrialists to sit together with representatives of home-based bangle workers, majority of whom are women, to fix their minimum wages.

They were speaking at a ‘Stakeholders’ consultative meeting on issues of glass bangle industry’ organised by the Home-based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) at a local hotel on Friday.

HBWWF leader Zahra Khan said the meeting was aimed at discussing issues related to minimum wages of glass bangle workers and get input from workers, contractors, industrialists and government on fixing of minimum wages for the workers, majority of whom were home-based women, who were presently highly underpaid.

“Home-based workers use their homes as workplaces, pay for utility bills like electricity, gas and water of the informal workplaces and the entire families including children toil in it but still they do not get proper wages,” she said.

The general secretary of the All Hyderabad Choori Welding Workers Association, Mohammad Asim, said that making glass bangles was a tough and risky job. The bangle workers were exposed to grave health problems because of handling hazardous chemicals in dangerous conditions, he said.

He said the owners of glass bangle industry should resolve the workers’ issues and fix minimum wages for them like the labourers of other formal sectors.

Industry representative Mahtab Ahmed said that they paid contractors handsomely so that they could pay reasonable wages to home-based workers after skimming their commission. If they were not paying adequately to workers it was not the fault of industrialists, he said.

Nasir Mansoor, deputy general secretary of the National Trade Union Federation, said that fixing minimum wages was a tripartite process, in which representatives of employees, employers and government should sit together and fix wages with complete consensus after detailed deliberations and consultation.

He said the home-based workers were contributing to the national economy but in return they were not even provided basic facilities of life. The bangle workers needed to be treated as workers in the eyes of law. A draft in this regard had already been presented to the chief minister, he said.

In Sindh, he said, there were more than six million home-based workers, 80 per cent of whom were women. They were vulnerable and they braved immense exploitation. There was an urgent need to resolve on priority basis their genuine issues, he said.

Joint director of the Sindh labour department, Gulfam Nabi Memon, said the government was taking steps to resolve workers’ problems including home-based workers.

They were there to act as bridge between employers and employees, he said, stressing the need to hold detailed consultation to fix minimum wages for the bangle workers.

Secretary of Minimum Wages Board Shaheen Nisar Mangi presented a list of proposed minimum wages at the meeting for different categories of home-based workers of glass bangle industry of Hyderabad.

The meeting set up a committee comprising representatives of workers, employers and government officials to re-draft the minimum wages after detailed consultation among all stakeholders within two weeks so that the minimum wages could be fixed for the workers of this neglected sector.

Published in Dawn, August 30th, 2015

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