Demand for tripartite conference on workers’ rights
KARACHI, May 16: Trade unionists and human rights activists at a consultation programme on Friday demanded that a tripartite conference be called so that a just labour policy securing workers’ rights could be formulated.
Addressing the programme on workers’ rights, organised by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), they said that a meeting of true representatives of workers and employers and the government officials concerned be called to discuss the labour issues and formulate a policy that protects the rights of all stakeholders.
The speakers demanded recognition of the workers’ rights, including the right to work of one’s choice, the right to economic development, the right to safe and healthy working conditions, the right to form trade unions, women’s right to equal wages for equal work, and the right to social security.
HRCP Secretary General I.A. Rehman called for an immediate legislation relating to the recently ratified international convent on economic, social and cultural rights so that it could be implemented. He demanded that the charter of labour rights that was adopted by workers’ representatives on March 30 be accepted. Besides, he urged the government to accord priority to the withdrawal of all restraints on the rights to form unions and allow all workers to participate in the trade union activities.
He said social security network be extended to all the workers and all the labour laws be consolidated as had been recommended by the Saif-ur-Rehman Commission. He also suggested land be given to the landless farmers under a land reforms programme.
He said that implementation on the ILO Convention 82 on ‘The worst forms of child labour’ be ensured, while the ILO 2002 be revised to ensure provision of basic rights to workers. The bonded labour system abolition act also needed to be reviewed, he said, adding that it was necessary to provide for the settlement of the liberated people.
Sheikh Majeed of the PeopleÂ’s Labour Bureau said it was unfortunate that no political party in its election manifesto specifically spoke of the workers’ rights of trade unions and collective bargain. A few parties have referred to the issues of workers but in very vague terms, he remarked. Describing the overall condition of workers very poor, he said that a vast majority of them were not even given their appointment letters.
Fareed Awan of the All Pakistan Trade Union urged workers to forge unity so that they could secure their rights. The exploitative forces were collectively working to shed away whatever rights workers had secured through their long struggle.
Shafiq Ghauri of the National Trade Union Federation said that most workers were unsatisfied with the so-called facilities being provided by the Sindh Employees Social Security Institution, Employees Old-age Benefit Institution, Sindh Workers Welfare Board and other such organisations. The working of these organisations, greatly influenced by the government, needed to be reviewed, he added.
Saeed Baloch of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum criticised the government for giving facilities to the foreign trawlers but depriving the local fishermen of their rights. Pointing out some flaws in the fisheries policy, he said the government must get input on it from the fishermen and revise the policy at the earliest. He said that marine pollution, over harvesting by the foreign trawlers and the construction of reservoirs on rivers had adversely affected the lives and economy of the fishing communities. Over a million fertile acres in the coastal districts had been ruined owing to the sea intrusion that had affected the subsoil aquifers.
Liaquat Sahi of the State Bank Union said that while several politicians had benefited through the National Reconstruction Ordinance, why were the hundreds of thousands workers, who had been victimised and sacked for their political affiliations, not being reinstated under similar arrangements?
Junaid Awan of the Railway Workers’ Union said the railway management had been withdrawing various facilities, including the medical, from the workers.
Jaleel Shah, Mohammad Ali, M. Khan Solangi and others also spoke. Asad I. Butt conducted the proceedings.