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January 25, 2021

Workers decry govt’s failure to stop labour laws’ violations at workplaces


January 25, 2021

Criticising the government for its failure to stop the blatant violations of labour laws in the workplaces, labour leaders at a march on Sunday warned of staging a sit-in in front of the Sindh Assembly if the situation was not urgently corrected.

The National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) organised the march from Bilal Chowrangi in Korangi Industrial Area till the Karachi Press Club. A large number of textile and garment factory workers carrying red flags, placards and banners took part in the march. They also chanted slogans against the non-implementation of the labour laws at the workplaces.

“Textile and garment industry is playing the role of the backbone of our economy but the government policies and attitude of international brands have made hundreds of thousands of workers of this sector virtually low-wage slaves who are deprived of their due rights,” said NTUF General Secretary Nasir Mansoor.

He added that the country would also progress and prosper if the working conditions and living standards of the labourers were improved.

Mansoor said the textile and garment factories of Karachi, especially those in Korangi Industrial Area, including the factories that make exportable goods for international brands, were openly violating local and international labour laws.

He maintained that 99 per cent of the workers of the textile sector were deprived of their labour rights, including the right of forming labour unions. “The nexus of corrupt bureaucracy and factory owners have made it almost impossible to give workers written appointment letters and get them registered with social security, workers welfare fund and old-age benefits institutions.”

The textile and garment factories of Karachi have been converted into modern slave houses and jails for their workers, he said.

Saeeda Khatoon, the chairperson of the association of the families affected by the Baldia factory fire incident, said the international fashion brands were openly violating local and international labour laws in the country.

She said the incident of inferno at the Ali Enterprises factory in Baldia Town brought into light the horrible working conditions, in which Pakistani textile and garment factory workers were forced to work.

Zahra Khan, the general secretary of the Home-based Women Workers Federation, said the international brands did a roaring business of $1.50trillion even during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, but the workers of this sector could not feed two square meals to their families.

She said some of these brands had promised to give living wages to their workers, but the workers of these factories were not even getting minimum wages as announced by the government and they were also forced to work for 150 to 200 extra hours every month without the overtime remuneration.

Asghar Ali, a textile worker, said workers faced ethnic and linguistic discrimination in textile and garment factories of Korangi Industrial Area. “Women workers are paid less wages compared to the male workers. Incidents of sexual harassment of female workers are increasing as there are no vigilance committees in these factories,” he added.

He explained that labour courts were not announcing the verdicts in time and justice was not being served to the aggrieved workers. Ali said unrest was sharply increasing amongst the textile and garment workers of Karachi and they might take to the streets if their grievances were not resolved.

The rally participants demanded of Sindh Labour Minister Saeed Ghani to take notice of the lawlessness and harassment of workers in the textile garment factories of Karachi. They warned that if the worrisome situation was not handled urgently, the workers would stage a sit-in in front of the Sindh Assembly.

The rally demanded that the government put an end to the contract labour system, and ensure that all workers are given written appointment letters and their salaries are paid through bank accounts.

The NTUF also asked the workers to take part in the protest of the workers of the SITE Area at Habib Bank Chowrangi on January 28.