The Home-Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) and the Labor and Human Resource Department of the Sindh government on Wednesday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to register the home-based workers in the province.
According to HBWWF general secretary Zehra Khan, the registration drive will enable the home-based workers to avail the social security benefits, marriage and death grants as well as the right to unionise for collective bargaining.
To mark this day as a milestone for the rights of the working class, a ceremony was held at a hotel in Karachi. It was attended by government representatives, labour and human rights activists and home-based workers.
Speaking on the occasion, Farhat Parveen, the executive director of the National Organisation for Working Communities, congratulated Khan for “her untiring efforts to make this happen”. She said Khan had received many offers to change her course during the HBWWF’s struggle but she turned them down and stayed committed to the cause.
Parveen suggested that the government may use online technology for the registration to make the process smooth and accessible to everyone. She said women made the majority of home-based workers and had been deprived of their rights to fair wages, health insurance and others for long but now the Sindh Home Based Workers Act had provided them with a ray of hope.
Nasir Mansoor, the general secretary of the National Trade Union Federation, said Sindh had made a distinction for itself in the whole of South Asia by becoming the province which had provided legal cover to workers in fisheries, agriculture and home-based sectors. He said a lot of subjective work had already been done and now the implementation should be ensured.
Mansoor lauded the efforts of women in the working-class struggle and commented that the work which their male counterparts could not do in 50 years, the females had done it in just 10 years which showed their importance and need in the social, political and labour movements everywhere.
He urged the government to strengthen its monitoring of labour laws in the province, saying that despite having a bundle of exemplary legislations, 95 per cent of workers were still deprived of their rights by their employers.
Dr Zahid Hussain, the additional secretary for labour in the province, said the government would ensure that the home-based workers got their due rights. He said the implementation was a continuous process and demanded immense patience and commitment.
He added that they were pondering on the use of technology for the registration of the home-based workers and as and when they acquired a fool-proof mechanism, they would start using it.
Farrukh Zaidi, joint director at the labour department in the province, said the informal workers were the spinal cord of the country’s economy as they contributed billions of rupees in the GDP.
He said the department would start the registration process “hopefully in December” as they were currently waiting to receive the remaining equipment from the UNWomen needed for the drive.
NTUF President Rafiq Baloch said the struggle of home-based workers was a painstaking journey as the inception of it four of their founding members were killed in Balochistan. He lauded Khan, saying she remained steadfast and continued moving in the forward direction.
Others who spoke on the occasion included former executive director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, Karamat Ali, Peoples Labour Bureau leader Habibuddin Junaidi, HBWWF’s Nageena Junejo, joint labour director Makhdoom Taufeeq and secretary Minimum Wage Board Shaheen Nisar.
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