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May 1, 2015

City observes World Labour Day today

Lahore

May 1, 2015

LAHORE
International Labour Day will be marked across Pakistan and in the provincial metropolis on Friday (today) with trade union bodies, workers confederations, and civil society organisations expected to stage major rallies for the rights of labourers.
Notably, the much delayed Punjab Labour Policy of 2014 is also expected to be announced by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif on this pivotal day in the history of labour movements.
Employees of government offices and private businesses will also be given a day-off as a token of appreciation for the services rendered to their employers. This historic day has its roots in the emergence of trade unions as representatives of employees in 18th century Britain where growing industrialisation led large number of men, women and children to work in factories.
Some historians say trade unions were predecessors of medieval European guilds, although masters of guilds including craftsmen and artisans employed workers who were not given freedom to organise and make demands for employees.
Trade unions notably faced repression by both law and force in 18th century Britain as they were seen by various British governments as anarchists and were encouraging popular unrest. Their demands for higher wages for British workers in Industrial Britain also met with opposition from employers.
The date May 1 was chosen as the date to mark the International Labour Day by both Socialists and Communists affiliated with Second International, an organisation of Socialist and Labour Parties established in Paris, France, on July 14, 1889. The organisation is also known for declaring the International Women’s Day to be marked March 8 every year.
The Second International was inspired by the incident of May 4, 1886 at Haymarket Square, Chicago. What began as a peaceful rally of labourers protesting for an eight-hour day soon turned tragic as an unidentified person threw a dynamite bomb at a police person deputed to discipline

crowds. Due to bombing, seven police officers and four civilians died while numerous others were seriously wounded.
The results of the trial that followed have been subject to public criticism both in the USA and outside the country. Four male labourers said to be innocent were executed on the orders of a US court whereas supposed assailants escaped from the eyes of law. The labour movement across the world constantly refers to the Haymarket Fire in both imagery and speech.
In Pakistan, governments have been criticised for not paying sufficient attention to the plight of labourers in the country in their policymaking and for preparing budgets perceived to be furthering the interests of private enterprise over the working class. The country’s first ever labour policy was announced in 1972 and May 1 was announced as a public holiday. As a member of International Labour Organization (ILO) since its inception in 1947, Pakistan has signed a series of conventions amounting on 36 including on minimum wage, equal pay, labour inspection, discrimination, collective bargaining, social security, and child and bonded labour binding it to commitments. The country, however, has not signed ratifications on migration for employment, protection of wages, occupation safety and health, working conditions, domestic work, and maternity protection amongst 62 other ILO conventions.
The country which has a significant number of women working in the informal sector and who consists of 83 percent of domestic work has also been ridiculed for not including their concerns in policymaking. Punjab’s policy for home-based workers has been pending for two years it is pertinent to note here with futile promises for policy announcement. Similarly, after the passage of the 18th amendment, Punjab has yet to pass a policy prohibiting child and bonded labour.
Punjab Labour Policy of 2014, which was to be presented on May 1 last year, is expected to be announced by the Chief Minister on this day. According to the draft of the policy available with The News approved by the CM in a recent cabinet meeting ahead of Labour Day, the new policy will improve working conditions through decent work, minimum wage, accepted working hours, and health and safety measures.
Other salient features include eradication of child and bonded labour, social safety nets for the employed and their family members that include health insurance, pension, workmen’s compensation, education and training, and maternity benefits, dispute settlement mechanisms through ARD (alternate dispute resolution), fair labour practices, and policy coherence with industry, trade, investment/FDIs, education and Tevta.
Priority areas of Punjab Labour Policy to be unveiled today include promotion of genuine trade union of workers, timeframe for labour judiciary to decide cases, Saeed Awan Centre for the Improvement of Conditions and Environment to be turned into a Centre of Excellence in Occupational Safety and Health, reactivation and making more effective District Vigilance to monitor Child and Bonded Labour, online inspection of factories strengthened and its expansion to commercial establishments, 10,000 new flats will be constructed for the workers. Moreover, 51 more industries are being inserted making the list 102 for notification by Punjab Minimum Wages Board and gradual increase in minimum wages up to Rs 15,000 per month and fixing it at Rs 12,000this year.

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