SUKKUR: Speakers at a public hearing on state of human and labour rights in Ghotki industries point out that the district’s rights are equally violated by state actors and multinational companies.

They said that despite being a major taxpayer, Ghotki was grappling with challenges of weak infrastructure, limited communication sources and inadequate health and education facilities.

They were speaking at the public hearing on due diligence of human and labour rights and Corporate Social Responsibility contributions for socio-economic development of the district organised by the Sindh Human Rights Commission (SHRC) in collaboration with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), Pakistan at deputy commissioner’s office in Ghotki on Wednesday.

According to a press release, the public hearing underscored issues of environmental degradation, inadequate minimum wages and contamination of drinking water by factories.

It was crucial to ensure active involvement of diverse stakeholders, including community members, environmental experts and industry leaders in order to address these concerns effectively, it said.

Abdullah, program adviser of FES-Pakistan, stressed the importance of business and human rights and pointed out violations of the rights of the district, particularly by state actors and multinational companies, despite being a major taxpayer.

Iqbal Ahmed Detho, chairperson of SHRC, expressed concerns over system’s failure in implementation of key provisions in various policies and agreements and highlighted lack of female representation in labour unions, which was a violation of both international laws and the country’s constitution.

He said that United Nations guiding principles and the GPS+ Scheme emphasised the importance of a comprehensive approach to business and human rights. There were several laws and Acts in Sindh for workers under CSR and human rights, which included: the Sindh Industrial Relations Act, 2013; the Sindh Employees Old-Age Benefits Act, 2014; the Sindh Workers Compensation Act, 2015; the Sindh Minimum Wages Act, 2015; the Sindh Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 2015; the Sindh Prohibition of Employment of Children Act, 2017; the Sindh Employees Social Security Act, 2016; the Sindh Occupational Safety & Health Act, 2017; the Sindh Employees Social Security Institution (Amendment) Act, 2022, and the Sindh Workers Welfare Fund (Amendment) Act, 2023.

These laws collectively aimed to establish a robust legal foundation for safeguarding the rights and well-being of workers in various sectors, he said.

Agha Sher Zaman, deputy commissioner of Ghotki, stressed the need for improving laws with the support of the community and labour unions and acknowledged the existence of private contractors who were violating labour laws.

Barrister Rida Tahir drew attention to women’s labour issues and expressed concern over lack of female representation in labour unions, hindering their voices from being heard.

During question and answer session, participants aired concerns that ranged from inadequate health and education facilities to weak infrastructure and limited communication sources.

Sukkur Commissioner Fayaz Hussain Abbasi expressed resolve to address genuine public issues without discrimination.

The SHRC and FES-Pakistan pledged to take on the concerns raised at the public hearing and said their collaboration sought to foster a sustainable and responsible business environment that respected and promoted human rights.

The program was attended by government officials, representatives of labour department, education sector, labour unions, CSR entities, civil society organisations and social activists.

Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2024

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