HYDERABAD: Speakers called for bringing sanitary workers under social security cover and binding contractors to get them registered with the relevant institutions so that workers may get facilities and live with dignity.

They were speaking at a provincial conference titled ‘Stand up for Rights of Sanitary Workers’ on the occasion of International Human Rights Day, organised by the Stre­n­g­thening Participatory Organi­sation (SPO) at a local hotel on Monday in collaboration with the Sindh Human Rights Commission (SHRC).

They said that in case of death of any sanitation worker, his/her family should get Rs500,000 as compensation under the social security law. But presently they were deprived of it. Apart from it, they said, budget should be allocated for social well-being of workers, who were treated as untouchables in society.

SHRC chairperson retired Jus­tice Majida Razvi chaired the conference. Those who spoke included Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) joint director Zulfiqar Shah, Sindh Labour Federation president Shafiq Ghauri, rights activist Amar Sindhu, SPO’s regional coordinator Pirbhu Satyani, and community activists Boota Imtiaz, Punhal Sario, Zulfiqar Halepoto, M. Parkash advocate and others.

They called for promoting social well-being of sanitary workers in Sindh, who faced hardships in terms of health risks.

The SHRC chairperson said the commission received many cases of sanitary workers, who worked without safety kits in manholes and remained vulnerable.

She said the SPO and SHRC would distribute safety kits among 250 workers in Hyderabad. But problems confronting sanitation workers included job security, adequate wages, health insurance, amendments in laws, she said.

“We want to ensure rights and safety of workers on equal basis,” she added.

The SHRC wanted to help them in designing legislation and it was conducting research to see gaps in legislation and provision of health insurance to them, she observed.

Zulfiqar Shah said workers held importance in a society. If they gave up the work in protest, society could not imagine how it would grapple with the situation. So, the government should take the initiative, he said. Sanitation workers worked under unclear legal framework, he added.

He said that some employees were associated with the local government while others worked with municipal corporations, town municipal administrations and others which had different mechanism. Those workers had unclear job descriptions, he added. Wor­kers’ services, he said, were not regularised and they did not receive pension or other facilities.

Shafiq Ghauri said their services should be regularised with facilities like other employees. He pointed out that the government depended on contractors for hiring workers on daily wages and contractors did not take responsibility when they died on the job.

He said the government should regularise their services and they should be provided pension and other perks.

He stated that contractors should be bound to register them under social security law so that they might get medical facility.

He said the government should sign document with contractors about those facilities. He observed that in case of injury or death, sanitation workers should be paid compensation of Rs500,000.

He stated that the development of workers should also be linked with welfare fund received under corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Pirbhu Satyani talked about sanitation workers’ job description, saying that there were different categories of workers, among them sewer men who were at risk while cleaning deep manholes.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2019