Workers not considered major stakeholders at policy level, laments Ahmed Shah

By News Desk
February 26, 2024

Sindh Caretaker Minister for Information, Social Protection and Minority Affairs Ahmed Shah, has emphasised the need for ensuring that every citizen enjoyed equal dignity, especially those from the working class who were the most oppressed in our society.

Sindh Caretaker Minister for Information, Social Protection and Minority Affairs Ahmed Shahspeaks to the closing ceremony of a course at the Pakistan Labour Academy on February 25, 2024. — Facebook/Mohammad Ahmed Shah

He was speaking on Sunday at the closing ceremony of a course at the Pakistan Labour Academy jointly organised by Sindh Human Rights Commission (SHRC), Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) and National Institute of Labour Administration and Training (NILAT).

Over 35 participants from four provinces, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan participated in the course that began on February 19 and ended on February 25.

Shah pointed out that the working class was in a majority but it was unfortunate that the majority was being neglected. He lamented that the government was more inclined towards addressing the issues of the corporate sector. Despite workers mostly contributing to the GDP, they were not considered as major stakeholders at the policy level, he remarked.

The social protection minister stressed the importance of a tripartite mechanism to address labour issues. Workers required support and encouragement, he said as he suggested that training sessions for workers should be held in all major industrial centres of Sindh, including Hyderabad and Sukkur.

SHRC Chairperson Iqbal Detho praised the FES for allocating funds to help workers. He expressed the desire for a similar commitment from the Pakistani leaders and noted that there were many pro-workers individuals like Nisar Siddiqui and Dr Adib Rizvi living in Sindh.

He also mentioned his intention to create a scholarship for children's human rights education. Detho highlighted the importance of the GSP Plus and said the incomes generated from it should also be spent on Sindh. More than 70 per cent of the benefits should go to Karachi, where most of the production was made, he added.

He also called for the implementation of Sindh's minimum wage of Rs32,000 per month and establishment of a dispute resolution system in the labour department. Detho mentioned that next week, there would be training for labour inspectors in due diligence and other relevant issues.

Abdullah Dayo from the FES explained that the organisation was established in Germany by a trade union leader who also founded the Federal Democratic Party. The FES started its operations in 1935 and currently it was working in 110 countries focusing on educational and social justice initiatives, he said, adding that the organisation had been active in Pakistan since 1990.

The event was told that the Pakistan Labour Academy began operating in 2023 and its idea arose because there was no university dedicated to labour studies in Pakistan. The academy’s main office is located in FES Islamabad and only matriculation is required to get enrolled there. The maximum age for graduation participants is 35 years.

Karamat Ali, executive director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler), spoke on the current situation of workers in Pakistan. He said a survey had revealed that 85 per cent of workers did not get minimum wages. He pointed out that there were only 541 labour inspectors in the country and of them, only 17 were female inspectors.

Barrister Rida Tahir, researcher and gender expert, addressed the participants of the Pakistan Labour Academy 2024 on the constitutional and legal rights of labour, Convention for Elimination of Discrimination against Women, equal remuneration, equal opportunities, Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act 2010 and impact of climate on working conditions of labour.

Sindh Labour and Human Resource Department Secretary Shariq Ahmed, NILAT Director Saddarudin Soomro, law officer Rejho Mal Sajnani and others also spoke on the occasion. Some participants also shared their experiences. They included Faraz Ahmed from Rohri, Fatima from Lahore and Asadur Rehman from Sheikhupura