The management of clothing company Khaadi and the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) on Tuesday reached a milestone agreement on the workers' rights issue highlighted on social media late May through a nationwide civil movement for labourer's rights.
Several protest demonstrations had been held in Karachi and Lahore over the last week of May by former workers employed in the textile company's production units accompanied by civil society activists. The protesters had alleged high-handedness and unfair labour practices by the Khaadi management.
On top of the workers' list of grievances had been the claim that a copy of an official appointment letter is not provided to employees at the time of their hiring, which leaves the terms and conditions of their employment open to interpretation and deprives them of having recourse to the law when their rights are violated.
Secondly, there was the allegation that the company does not deposit Sindh Employees' Social Security Institution (SESSI) contributions with the department, or issue SESSI cards to workers employed in its industrial units, thus depriving them of a means of social protection.
Similarly, it was alleged that the company makes monthly deductions for Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI) contributions from workers' salaries, but does not issue them with EOBI cards. The workers claim that this is a deliberate move to deprive them of facilities and necessary protections afforded to them under the EOBI Act.
The workers had also claimed that they are made to work over 12 hours a day. They said they are also forced to work on public holidays and Sundays.
As far as work environment is concerned, the workers said they were not provided clean drinking water and faced restrictions on the number of times they could use toilet facilities in a day.
Lastly, workers said that if any employee was injured while on duty, they would not be compensated for it as per the law.
It seems that, as per the terms of the new agreement, the workers have been successful in winning significant concessions from Khaadi on each of their demands.
A press release issued by NTUF on Monday revealed that, as a result of discussions between the agitating workers and the company's management, Khaadi has agreed to improve the implementation of labour laws at its production units.
"Workers at these production units who have not been issued employment letters, will be given those," the statement said.
Under the agreement, of which the Khaadi management and NTUF are signatories, it has been decided that 125 workers who moved the National Industrial Relations Commission shall be restored and not harassed.
The joint statement also stated that Khaadi will ensure the implementation of labour laws, including minimum wage regulations. The clothier has also promised to register its employees with the Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution as well as the Sindh Employees Social Security Institution — both significant achievements for the agitating workers.
According to the details of the agreement, Khaadi has also agreed to improve basic facilities in all of its production units and take necessary health and safety precautions.
Khaadi also said it would not object to any of the 32 workers who "have left" in collecting their dues if they wanted to work with any of its vendors, the statement said.
The statement further mentions that the brand’s workers shall be given a month’s salary in advance as their annual bonuses on Eid and that working hours and overtime will be in line with local laws.
In return, "workers will ensure that they complete their rational daily production targets and maintain discipline inside the factory," the statement said.