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Only tall promises for workers on Labour Day

May 01, 2013

ISLAMABAD, April 30: Each year the Labour Day comes with tall promises from people in power, who invariably vow to improve the life of workers. But this class continues to face numerous problems, such as low wages, poor working conditions and, above all, socio-economic difficulties because of continuous increase in the prices of essential commodities and the failure of the government to properly implement labour laws.

On May 1 every year, a number of welfare measures for the labouring class are announced and plans for upholding their rights are made, but no practical steps are taken to translate all these promises into action and the condition of workers, especially employees engaged in agriculture sector, workshops and domestic service, remains the same.

The previous government had fixed the minimum wage of workers at Rs8,000. It had announced education and health facilities and social security system for them and made a policy for regularising services of all daily wage workers, but all these measures have yet to be implemented. The government failed to implement these measures even in some government organisations.

For example, the National Highway Authority (NHA) which is a vibrant organisation and where regular employees draw reasonable salary packages, has a large number of employees working on temporary basis who get a monthly salary from Rs4,000 to Rs7,000. There is no job security for these workers and they can be relieved any time without any prior notice. Several employees in the NHA had been shown the way out when the tenure of the previous government was ended.

“The labour policy is announced every year on May 1, but no mechanism is designed to implement it and as a result workers have to suffer hardships. Their rights are blatantly violated by both government and private organisations, and there is no one to hear their grievances,” said Zahoor Awan, the general secretary of Pakistan Workers Federation.

The union leader criticised labour courts, saying that cases related to workers’ issues linger on for years and justice seldom reaches to them in time.

Bonded labourers and child labourers and daily wage workers have been facing worst working conditions. Despite assurances by successive governments to abolish bonded labour and child labour, these menaces continue to flourishing because of pressing poverty and inequality in our specific social milieu.

According to Chaudhry Yasin, the president of CDA Mazdoor Union, bonded and child labourers and daily wage earners were passing through a very difficult time because they work like slaves. Successive governments had failed to curb these practices in the country, he said.

Mr Yasin said those working in government organisation on permanent basis had somewhat satisfactory salary packages, but the conditions of temporary employees and daily wage earners were very adverse. He said the government should frame laws for protecting the rights of such workers. He stressed the need for developing a social security system to cover such workers.

In cities a large number of daily wage earners are usually seen on sides of road, in markets and other public places. Sitting idle with their tools — spades, saws or hammers — decorated in front of them, they wait for someone to hire them for a daily wage. “I have come from Kashmir. I go everyday to Peshawar Mor early in the morning to find a job. Most of the time I spend whole day waiting for a work, but when I get a work I earn Rs200 to Rs300 for a day,” said Mutasir Hussain Shah, a daily wage worker.