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October 8, 2019

‘Over 100 more workers have died in industrial mishaps since Baldia tragedy’


October 8, 2019

Speakers at a rally on Monday said that precarious working conditions in Pakistan have become a menace for workers and they should get organised to achieve the target of decent work.

The National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) in collaboration with the Home-based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) organised the rally in the SITE Industrial Area that started from Habib Chowrangi and ended at Siemens Chowrangi.

NTUF Deputy General Secretary Nasir Mansoor said Pakistan has been braving the worst economic crisis of its history. He said that unprecedented depreciation of the Pakistani rupee has caused the real wages of the workers to be slashed by 50 per cent.

Mansoor said that more than 95 per cent of the workers are deprived of basic facilities like pension and social security. He said that the illegal contract work system is operational at 90 per cent of the factories in Pakistan.

The NTUF office-bearer said that 85 per cent of the 68 million-strong Pakistani workforce is forced to do precarious work. He said that only one per cent of Pakistan’s labour force is organised in trade unions.

HBWWF General Secretary Zehra Khan said that the main weapon of neoliberals is to shift industrial work from organised to unorganised sector, resulting in a sharp increase in home-based workers. She said that majority of the home-based workers are women, who get lesser wages compared to male workers.

Zehra said the government and industrialists did not learn any lesson from the tragedy of the September 2012 Baldia factory fire. She said that since the Baldia tragedy, more than 100 other workers have died in different industrial mishaps.

The HBWWF office-bearer said that in 46 major mishaps in coalmines, 320 workers have already died in Pakistan. She said that according to an estimate, every year some 200 miners in the country die due to precarious working conditions.

Labour leader Riaz Abbasi said that precarious labour is a form of modern-day slavery and forced work. He said that every fifth worker in Pakistan is forced to take leave due to workplace mishaps.

Abbasi said the mining and construction sectors are notorious for mishaps and precarious conditions. He said that all this is happening despite the fact that the Constitution of Pakistan and the Bonded Labour System Abolition Act 1992 declare slavery and forced labour as illegal.

NTUF Sindh President Gul Rehman said Pakistan has already ratified the Convention 36 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), and it has got a special status due to GSP+, due to which the exports of Pakistan to the European Union have increased from 4.5 billion euros to 6.8 billion euros.

The rally demanded that permanent jobs be given to workers along with written appointment letters, and that the contract work system in every shape and form be abolished. They also demanded that the workplace conditions in mining, ship-breaking and other such sectors be improved, and that the Hong Kong Convention about ship-breaking and the ILO convention about mining be ratified.

They said that the minimum wages of workers should be converted into living wages, workers should be given paid holidays, an eight-hour work day should be accepted and double wages should be given for overtime.

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