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Sunday January 29, 2023

Give workers their rights

January 26, 2023

LAHORE: Protecting workers rights is the responsibility of the employers, as it is common knowledge that the state makes laws to protect workers’ rights that are not implemented in letter and spirit.

Businesses want their trade to remain profitable and continue to grow. Most of the documented businesses install the best possible equipment, procure best inputs to produce quality products. Most of them however, fail to make adequate arrangements for their rights and facilitations. The common perception among employers is that the rights that local law provides are too expensive for their businesses.

If this perception is true then why the exporting industries are prospering on providing many times more facilities to their workers than the demands of the local law.

The exporting industries not only provide minimum wage to their lowest paid worker but also provide them additional facilities. They provide a clean working environment including adequate lighting and fire escapes, first aid facilities, firefighting equipment, subsidised canteens, fair price shops and babysitting arrangements in case of female workers.

They provide them environmentally clean working floors, they are provided overtime according to the law. They abide by the condition of foreign buyers to provide the workers with clean and hygienic toilet facilities.

There is a high recurring cost to accomplish these tasks. They bear these costs (which most of the non-documented industries do not) and still flourish.

The exporting industries have proved that facilitating the workers with high recurring investment does not impact their profitability. In fact it enhances their efficiency.

The point to note in this regard is that most exporting industries operate without any union.

They provide all facilities to their workers without any union pressure.

They are liable to foreign buyers to conduct regular audits of these manufacturing units to ensure that they are fully compliant with the labour welfare directives and cancel export orders if any industry is found defaulting on the parameters provided to them.

It is worth noting that such facilities are not available in most of the unionised manufacturing units of the country. In fact, major unionised organisations like Railways, WAPDA, PIA, are in financial trouble despite the fact that none of these organisations provide a clean and hazard free environment to their workers.

The availability of global standard facilities to the workers of exporting industries is due to the total compliance of rules assured by the importing firms. In industries where the labour laws are not proper, workers operate under distress.

Treating the workforce humanly has many other benefits. Improved working conditions result in increased productivity and less absentee workers.

When these conditions were imposed by the foreign buyers most of the exporters got worried and thought that it would increase their cost. However, it proved to be a blessing in the long run as the increase in workers efficiencies has more than covered the additional expense.

Hygienic conditions in the factories have improved the health of the workers. They now take adequate food at highly subsidised canteens and the incidences of injuries have markedly reduced.

The state must establish its writ first in implementing the existing labour laws and then make amendments in the rigid hiring and firing laws that are openly flouted by the employers like other labour laws.

Rigid hiring and firing laws push both employers and workers into the informal sector. Informal sector workers are generally paid much lower wages and enjoy no legal protections or social benefits.

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