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Published Date: May 4, 2011

SDPI PRESS RELEASE (4 MAY 2011)

Speakers of the seminar strongly demanded the effective enforcement of labour laws in securing safer workplaces for workers. They highlighted the workers plight and their right for safer healthier and better life, current status of labour laws, loopholes and changes required to meet the objectives.

Worker’s registration be ensured so that they can benefit from social security services like Pakistan Workers Welfare Fund, insurance, old Age benefits, medical and other fringe benefits associated with such social security net. This was discussed at a seminar on “Workers’ Memorial Day; Remember the Dead and fight for Living” organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here on Wednesday. The speakers included Mr Chaudhry Manzoor, Former MNA, PPP and Incharge Peoples Labour Bureau, Mr Akram Bunda, General Secretary PTV Workers Union and Deputy General Pakistan Workers Federation (PWF), Mr C. R. Shamsi, Former Secretary General, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalist (PFUJ) , Ms Farzana Yasmin, Project Associate, Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), who also moderated the proceedings.

Farzana Yasmin highlighted the importance and history of Workers Memorial Day, celebrated on every April 28th- as an international day of remembrance and action for workers killed, disabled, injured or made unwell by their work. She quoted International Labour Organisation (ILO) that each year, more than two million women and men die as a result of work-related accidents and diseases across the world.

Mr. Bunda while citing various provisions of national and international laws on labours, lamented the non-implementation of labour laws. He suggested improvement in organizational behavior system which include giving proper contract letters to the workers, ensure minimum wages, restoration of labour inspection teams and devising a management framework order on labour. He explained that only a revisiting and firm implementation of these steps is required as most of them are already part of the labour laws.

Chaudhry Manzoor highlighted the importance of workers memorial days and accounted various phases of labour struggle like Chicago incident, historic Trade Union Act in 1926, post independence subtraction of labour rights, Pro-labour policies of Peoples Party and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 70s, suppression of labours by Zia regime, Anti-labour clauses (27 b) introduced by Nawaz Sharif and lately ironical IRO 2002 and Removal from Services Act without any reason by Gen. Pervez Musharraf . He expressed that most of political elite is unanimous on repression of labours and in denying rights to them. The reason is that most of them are industrialist and don’t want to have any regulation undermining their interests.

He informed that through rigorous struggle by workers, three of the four arbitrary laws have been reversed including Removal from Services Act, IRA-2002 and article 27A, But unfortunately 27-B couldn’t be abolished due to lack of political unanimity despite submission of summary in Senate Standing Committee on Finance. Article 27-B, introduced by Nawaz Sharif government bans any union activity from 09.a.m to 05:00 p.m, virtually paralyzing any union activity.

He shared some of achievements, recently gained in struggle for workers rights like, raising minimum wage to 7000 rupees, construction of 80,000 homes for workers, issuance of Master Labour Card in collaboration with Nadra, substantial increase in ratio of education, marriage and death grant, medical facilities to workers parents and continuity of benefits even after the death or retirement of the worker. He supported Mr. Bunda’s demand of ensuring workers registration, because without registration they can’t benefit from social security services as happened in the case of 44 miners from Balochistan who died in mine blast several months ago but couldn’t get any compensation due to non registration as a labour. He also demanded actions on legal vacuum created by devolution of labour ministry.

C. R. Shamsi described the ordeal of journalists and voiced for implementation of various wage board awards still pending to be awarded despite several verdicts by higher judiciary. He showed resentment on media owners for denying justified and due rights of journalist working on meager salaries with no job security or any fringe benefits. He said that Anti-labour laws are swiftly implemented while legislation ensuring workers rights are shelved for indefinite period of time. Answering to a question he suggested that government advertisements given to the newspapers should be made conditional with implementation of Wage Board Award.

Dr. Nazre Haider appreciated conducting seminar on subject that is often overlooked. He quoted Islamic teachings to establish the importance of labour rights and pointed institutional weaknesses towards addressing workers rights.