LAHORE: Civil society organisations and trade unions have jointly demanded the government to implement its announcement regarding setting Rs 12,000 per month as minimum wages for workers.
Representatives of the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN), Pattan Development Organisation, All Pakistan Trade Union Federation, All Pakistan Bhatta Mazdoor Union and Awami Workers Party held a press conference at the Lahore Press Club on Friday.
Civil society representatives Shazia Khan, Shazia Nawaz and Wajahat Batool said that formal sector throughout the world, and especially in third world countries, had mostly been transformed into informal sector due to capitalism. They said that capitalist policies overlook labour rights by favouring capitalist entities.
They said the informal sector throughout South Asia was being oppressed. The labour forces in this sector were supporting economy by providing invisible forms of labour. In Pakistan, over 80 percent of labour force belonged to the informal sector, including home-based and low-level enterprises, and this sector contributed almost $32 billion to the economy, yet the government constantly ignored their voices.
They said that the rapid increase in informal sector was due to globalisation, new liberal economic policies, deregulation, downsizing and privatisation. These factors were resulting into hundreds of thousands of people being rendered unemployed, and were affecting women, children and elderly belonging to these families.
The informal sector had increased home-based work and child labour, where there were no laws to protect the labourers. They were not registered anywhere or considered as formal workers.
They said that issues of the informal labour sector were political in nature and people needed to be organised, educated, and made aware about their rights as well as they should be registered as formal workers and should be provided with social security according to labour laws and that trade unions needed to be strengthened for this purpose.
Trade unionists present in the conference including Nazli Javed, Yousuf Baloch, Mehmood Butt and Niaz Khan said that the Punjab government had miserably failed to implement labour laws and minimum wages in the province and a large majority of children of workers were being forced to work, since employers refused to pay minimum wages to working parents and also refused to provide EOBI benefits and issue social security cards.
Moreover, they said, working conditions in most of the factories did not fulfil safety and hygiene standards set up a century ago by a colonial power. Yet, the labour department had not taken a single employer to task, they added.
They demanded the Punjab government to double the wages for labourers and also to ensure that minimum wages were incorporated in a gazette notification.
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