South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

National Trade Union Federation President Rafiq Baloch led the rally from Regal Chowk to Karachi Press Club. Photo: Courtesy NTUF

Ninety percent industrial units in Pakistan are not implementing eight-hour shifts or minimum wage, said speakers at a rally held to commemorate Labour Day in Karachi on Tuesday.

National Trade Union Federation President Rafiq Baloch led the rally from Regal Chowk to Karachi Press Club. A large number of workers from different industries, including home-based working women, and human rights activists participated in the rally. They paid tribute to the workers who lost their lives in the Haymarket affair in Chicago in 1886.

The protesters said that while capitalism has deprived people across the world of their rights, the situation was even more appalling in Pakistan. The country’s workforce, estimated to be 6.5 million, is denied its basic and constitutional right to unionise and collective bargaining. “Ninety-five percent of the total workforce [i]s not registered with social security and pension funds because they don’t get appointment letters from their employers,” said the press release.

They complained about health and safety of labourers and remembered the deadly fire at Ali Enterprises, commonly known as the Baldia Factory fire, in which more than 250 people died, and the Gadani oil tanker tragedy. According to the protesters, the employers are free to treat their workers as “slaves” due to the government’s apathy. They complained that the contractual employment system, which violates the labour laws and Supreme Court orders, was still in place.

“For the agriculture, fisheries, home-based and construction workers, there are neither set working hours nor wages enough to make both ends meet,” said the press release.

The government represents the capitalists and feudal lords, said the protesters.

‘What we want’

The protesters demanded that minimum wage should at least be Rs30,000 and all workers should be issued appointment letters. They called for the revival of the labour inspection system to ensure the safety of all workers. All workers should be given the right to unionisation and contractual employment should be done away with, they said.

The protesters called for the abolition of all laws that are discriminatory towards women. They also demanded an end to workplace harassment.

They called for the recovery of all missing persons and the release of former Brazilian president and labour leader Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva.


Updated On: May 2, 2018