ISLAMABAD: Like other parts of the globe, the International Labour Day was observed in all cities of Pakistan on Thursday with a renewed pledge to protect rights of workers.
The day is celebrated all across the world every year on May 1, which has been declared as the traditional spring holiday in Europe and Pakistan. All government and private organisations, educational institutions and markets remained closed to observe the Labour Day. Different political and labour organisations‚ particularly the labour wings of political parties and professional bodies organised programmes to highlight significance of the day and rights of the workers.
Seminars and rallies were held in different cities to pay tribute to those who laid down their lives in Chicago in 1886 for the rights of the labourers. Many people sacrificed their lives during the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago during a strike of workers in favour of their rights. May Day is celebrated to commemorate the event of Haymarket Massacre as well as to promote the social and economic achievements of the working group people.
Pakistan’s first labour policy was devised in 1972, in which May 1 was declared an official holiday. This policy also formulated the creation of the Social Security Network, Old-Age Benefits Schemes and Workers Welfare Fund. Pakistan’s constitution also contains various provisions and articles about labour rights. May 1 is a national holiday in more than 80 countries. It is also celebrated unofficially in many other countries.
In Lahore the Labour Day was observed with seminars, rallies, conventions and conferences by different labour organisations, civil societies and political parties. The Lahore Press Club (LPC) was the main hub of rallies where different rallies merged and recorded protest for labour rights. Traffic was jammed in the surroundings of LPC for several hours due to the rallies.
The Women Workers Help Line (WWHL) took out a rally from the Lahore Press Club to Lakshmi Chowk in which a large number of labour union workers, home-based workers and civil societies’ members participated. WWHL Chairperson Azra Shaad led the rally, while WWHL General Sectary Rifat Maqsood, Razia Ansari, Nusheen Asif, Jahan Ara, Razia Ishaq, Asma Ashraf and Salman Ali were also present.
Azra Shaad said that the labour class has been exploited in the last few years and women labourers have fallen victim to violence by some in the ruling class. She criticised the government and said that violence against labourers is increasing in Punjab due to non-imposition of labour legislation. She said the government should make a policy for legally recognising the domestic workers, and immediately apply ILO convention 189 should.
Speaking on the occasion WWHL General Secretary Rifat Maqsood said the government should make a clear policy for domestic workers and ratify the ILO Convention No 177 on home-based work and amend the relevant domestic legislation. Other speakers of the rally said that the government should take serious action for registration of the domestic workers and against child labour. At the end of the rally they demanded the government set the minimum wages for a single woman worker at Rs 30,000, provide jobs to youth, recognise the home-based woman workers and give the judicial right for the formation of unions.
The All Pakistan Trade Union Federation (APTUF) also arranged a rally from the Headquarters to the Punjab Assembly and recorded a protest in which hundreds of labourers participated. Speakers of the rally said that the factory labour was working in terrible conditions in the absence of safety laws. They also said that most of the industrial labourers were treated badly.
Another seminar rally was held at the Mayo Hospital by paramedical staff and trade unions. Speakers said that labourers are facing many problems and living in poor conditions. They said that the government should make proper legislation for labour workers and ensure their implementation.
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