Joint efforts urged to safeguard rights of labourers
Karachi: The deadly fire incident in a Baldia Town garments factory in which more than 300 workers were burnt alive is a wake-up call for protecting the rights of workers in Pakistan and this could be done only when all stakeholders take joint efforts.
These observations were made by speakers at a protest demonstration that followed a condolence meeting on Saturday for 259 workers who died in the blaze in Ali Enterprises on September 11.
The event was organised under the banner of the Workers Rights Movement (WRM) to pay the tribute to the victims of the fire on the occasion of their Chehlum. A large number of workers participated in the condolence meeting.
On the appeal of the WRM, a mourning day was observed and black flags were hoisted at industries in all industrial zones of the city to express solidarity with the victims of the fire incident.
Labourers’ representatives paid glowing tributes to the victims and expressed their commitment to continue their struggle till achieving the rights the workers were entitled to under the Constitution and conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO).
They said capitalists earned more and more profits but denied basic labour rights. They said in the 21st century this approach had pushed the workers back into the medieval times when they had not right of any sort.
They said they held international brands equally responsible for such incidents as they never paid attention to inhuman working conditions in Pakistan. They said the fire incident had exposed “the real face of all major religious, political and ethnic parities in the country in general and in Karachi in particular as they remained silent over cruelties towards labourers”. They said this sort of practice revealed that the ruling class always backed the capitalists whatever the circumstance may be.
This was the reason, they said, two major ruling political parties, one in Sindh and the other in Punjab, had banned labour inspections in both the provinces in violation of international labour laws.
They speakers said largely in the industries of Karachi labourers were forced to work 12 to 14 hours a day for low wages. They said the labourers were not issued with appointment letters nor were they registered with the Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI) or with Social Security.
The workers’ representatives maintained that the contract system was in force at most factories and workers were denied the right to form unions, their basic constitutional right. The speakers said the government had failed to compensate the legal heirs of the fire victims accordingly.
They said the authorities concerned had not yet even produced a DNA report, and many affected families were running from pillar to post to get the bodies of their beloved ones. “These families are facing problems with making ends meet and they are literally starving.”
The speakers demanded of the government to release the DNA report immediately.
They said the labour movement had taken a new direction after the fire incident. They said that like the sacrifice rendered by labourers of Chicago back in the 19th century the blood of the 259 factory workers would pave the way for reformation of society.
The workers’ representatives also unanimously demanded the resumption of labour inspections immediately at all factories, and asked the government to register the workers of all factories and make sure they got appointment letters.
Worker Party Pakistan representative Usman Baloch, Nasir Mansoor of the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF), Awami Party leader Ghulam Muhammed Jadoon, Sajjad Zaheer of the Labour Party, SITE Labour Forum representative Gul Rahman, Communist Party of Pakistan leader Muhammad Iqbal, Sultan Mahmood of the JKPNP, Home- Based Workers Federation representative Zahra Khan, Bashir Ahmad Mahmoodani, Ameer Askari, Abdul Mohammad and other worker unions leaders spoke.