Home-based workers play a crucial role in the development of any national economy and it is necessary that their rights are accepted and protected in sincerity if Pakistan is to truly progress, said Zehra Khan, general secretary of the Home-Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF), on Friday.
Addressing a rally held to mark the South Asian Home-based Workers Day, observed annually on October 20, Zehra urged the Sindh government to legislate upon the workers’ rights and register them with social security institutions and pension funds, as is the norm for all other workers.
Among other speakers to have spoken at the rally were National Trade Union Federation president Rafiq Baloch, its deputy general secretary, Nasir Mansoor, United HB Workers Union president Zahida Mukhtiyar, general secretary Saira Feroz, HBWWF Sindh information secretary, Shabnam, Mazdoor Kisan Party leader, Afzal Shah Khamosh, writer Zubair ur Rahman, Fiction House founder Zahoor Ahmed Khan and Sindh Agriculture General Workers Union (CBA) leader Mushtaq Ali Shan.
Remembering the event that led to the declaration of the South Asian Home-based Women Workers Day, the speakers said that it was on the same day seven years ago that South Asian women workers’ unions and federations passed a declaration in Kathmandu, Nepal to struggle for the rights, social protection and legal identity of over 50 million home-based workers, 80 percent of them women, in the region.
They appreciated the provincial government for taking the lead in announcing a policy for the home-based workers but insisted on legislating upon it too on a priority basis.
For over a decade the workers, especially of Sindh, have been struggling for their rights. A draft bill with respect to legalising them was presented before the provincial government four years ago but it has since been gathering dust as no headway has been made to pass it as a law, the speakers observed.
The ignorance was termed, by the speakers, a sheer violation of its own manifesto by the ruling Pakistan People’s Party. Despite making significant economic contributions, home-based workers have been deprived of their rights to minimum wage, legally defined working hours, social security and pension among others.
Home-based women workers are being badly exploited in textile, leather, garment and shoe industries at the hands of both local industrialists and international brands, the speakers observed.
The purpose of observing the day was to push governments, especially of South Asia, where half of the world’s entire home-based workers' force is centred, to legislate upon and ensure their rights.
The protestors demanded to regularise home-based workers and register them with the Sindh Employees Social Security and Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution. Pakistan’s government should ratify the International Labour Organisation's convention 177 and form legislation accordingly, in both national and provincial assemblies.
The protestors demanded that the contract system prevalent in home-based workers’ sector should be brought under the legal net, whereas implementation of the Minimum Wage Law should be ensured, especially in the bangles manufacturing industry.
Home-based workers representative organisations should be taken on board in matters relating to them and a tripartite mechanism should be employed to resolve their problems, the protestors observed. The protestors also demanded an end to persecution on forming unions as unionising is their basic human, constitutional and legal right.
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