LAHORE: Unprecedented rate of unemployment, denial of fundamental rights such as freedom of association, health and education besides lack of recognition on the part of government included the issues the working class highlighted during their engagements while commemorating the Labour Day on Tuesday.

During rallies, the workers also pressed for increase in minimum wages to Rs25,000, an end to discrimination against women and forced labour besides protection of their other rights according to the ILO conventions.

Scores of workers, including women belonging to Wapda, railways, telecommunication, textile, engineering, chemicals, printing, transport and banking sectors participated in the rally taken out from Labour Hall on Nisbet Road up to Aiwan-i-Iqbal under the auspices of All Pakistan Workers Confederation (APWC).

Holding banners and placards inscribed with their demands, women workers were prominent in the other procession which was taken out from Hamdard Hall on Lytton Road up to Lahore High Court building under the banner of All Pakistan Trade Union Federation (APTUF).

Addressing the workers in front of Aiwan-i-Iqbal, APWC President Robina Jameel demanded that labour courts should be empowered under the Punjab Industrial Relations Act (PIRA), social security benefits for informal sector workers and an end to bonded labour.

Expressing concern over the aggravating economic and social sufferings of the working class allowing the rich to be richer and poor to be poorer, veteran trade union leader Khurshid Ahmed said the present regime has almost completed its tenure but did not take any measure to ensure fundamental rights of workers.

“We still have laws like the Factories Act 1934, Boilers Act 1910, Mines Act 1923 etc. The government has yet to consolidate 72 laws governing the working class in Pakistan. No measures have been taken to revive tripartite labour conference under the amended Convention No 44 of ILO.”

The APTUF rally was also participated by a good number of domestic workers who were chanting slogans against inflation, forced labour, unemployment, poverty, contract labour system and exploitation of workers’ rights and called for bringing about reforms.

Near the Lahore High Court building, APTUF leaders addressed the marchers.

APTUF General Secretary Aima Mahmood criticised the government for not addressing issues of labourers, farmers, unemployed youth and women workers. Ms Mahmood said all political parties were equally responsible for the problems of working class as none of them have ever highlighted issues confronting labourers and farmers on the floor of national and provincial assemblies.

The Bonded Labour liberation Front (BLLF) staged a rally which attracted labourers, workers, kiln workers, trade unionists, students, lawyers and others who chanted slogans against the capitalist system and owners who exploit workers.

They demanded that child labour must be ended from brick kilns and other places such as workshops and tea stalls and social security cards must be provided to every labourer at brick kilns.

Addressing the rally, head of BLLF Syeda Ghulam Fatima said that the brick kilns displayed the worst form of slavery.

PPP: Labour wing of the PPP took out a rally outside the Lahore Press Club. It was led by central Punjab president Qamar Zaman Kaira.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Kaira said the PPP had always been considering labourers and workers as spine of the country and stood for its rights.

He said the party would neither allow any force to privatise national institutions nor introduce retrenchment under any pretext.

Azizur Rehman Chan, Aslam Gill and others also spoke on the occasion.

JI: Jamaat-i-Islami Emir Sirajul Haq said a society, which did not give respect to the workers, could never develop. He was addressing railway workers at Railway workshops.

The JI chief briefly participated in the work at the washing line and later took lunch with the railway workers and coolies to express his solidarity with them.

Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2018

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