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Karachi

June 22, 2018

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Political parties slated for ignoring labourers in their manifestos

The deputy-general secretary of the National Trade Unions’ Federation, Nasser Mansoor, has lamented that political parties have not even mentioned their manifestos so far and that the condition of the labourers who are the majority voters of the country just do not figure in the manifestos of the parties.

He was addressing a press conference, along with other labour leaders, at the Karachi Press Club (KPC) on Thursday afternoon.

Mansoor said that it was regrettable that labourers never figured in the plans of any political party. He said, “We, the labourers, have decided to go into the remote rural areas and areas inhabited by the working classes to project issues affecting the labour community, like clean water, sewage, housing, and other necessities of life.”

Civic conditions and hence conditions for labour were far better 30 years ago, he said and pointed to the Karachi Road Transport (KRTC) buses which made life much easier for the workers. He said that the KRTC had to be liquidated because of Pakistan’s excessive enslavement to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as the Fund’s General Agreement on Trades and Services (GATS) stipulated that except for health, social welfare, education and the state had no business to interfere in any other endeavour.

He lamented that over the last 30 years, no hospital, no university had come up in the public sector. Parks, he said, which were imperative to the joint welfare of citizens, had been encroached upon by builders’ syndicates , and citizens and families had been deprived of a source of relaxation.

He said that 95 per cent of the factories were not paying even the paltry wage of Rs15,000 per month to the workers. He said that under the present dearness-riddled economic conditions, Rs15,000 was just not enough to sustain a family, but the capitalists were reluctant to give even that to the workers whom they owed their booming prosperity.

Most workers were not registered with the EOBI (Employees’ Old-Age Benefits Institution), he said. The law enforcing agencies, in collusion with the security staff of the factories, acted as the loyal servants of the capitalist factory owners and cajoled and threatened workers if they got scent of the fact that workers were planning to set up a union. They, he said, had scant regard for the labour laws.

He said that health and safety measures at these industrial undertakings were virtually non-existent and cited the case of the Ali Enterprises fire tragedy of 2012. He added that in the last major heatwave that struck the city, seven labourers in a factory in town died because of dehydration.

Mansoor said that it was tragic that while labourers formed 70 per cent of the electorate, their interests never figured in the plans of the political parties and, instead, the politicians just courted bodies like the FPCCI and other capitalist organisations to win the elections.

All the speakers demanded basic facilities of life like clean water, electricity, gas, roads and streets, proper drainage, and sanitation facilities in workers’ localities.

They demanded that marine forests be saved from the land mafia, and environment-friendly trees, especially in industrial areas, be planted. They also called for the revival of the KRTC and the inter-city SRTC (Sindh Road Transport Corporation). They demanded special seats in parliament for representatives of workers’ bodies.

One of the labour leaders, Saira Feroze, said that home-based workers of the unorganised sector should be registered with the social security and pensions institutions.

Qurat Mirza from the Women Action Forum (WAF), a noted human rights campaigner, said that women must figure in the political parties’ manifestos as they made an indispensable contribution to the national economy.

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