close
Advertisement
Can't connect right now! retry

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!
 
May 1, 2021

For the worker

Editorial

 
May 1, 2021

On this day – May 1 – every year, the workers of the world remind everyone that they have rights, and that their labour has value. However, this occasion means little to the 57.2 million labourers in Pakistan, out of which over 71 percent fall into the informal labour sector. Many of these labourers are unaware of May Day or Labour Day, and those who are aware know little about the rights that should be available to them under the labour policies devised by Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab. While each of these policies, worked out after labour was one of the subjects devolved to provinces, offer workers different rights, the reality is that very often these facilities are not provided to labourers, especially those making up the informal labour sector.

A key example of the manner in which the working class is cheated of even the most basic rights comes in the fact that, while the minimum wage was set at between Rs14000 and Rs15,000 in 2018, few people get even this amount. The fact also is that even the minimum wage is not enough to offer any kind of decent living to a family of five or six people in a country where inflation is at an all-time high. With so many collecting even less than this each month, this situation becomes even tougher and for many placing food on the family table has become a virtual impossibility.

The indifference to the working class in our country has been present for many decades. It became more marked after the 1980s when labour unions were banned under the dictatorship of Gen Ziaul Haq. As a result of such restrictions, the powerful unions within the railways, the banking sector, the mining sector and other fields simply frizzled away, leaving little behind to represent the rights of workers or to offer to them some means to raise their voice. Although workers march with red flags in hand on May Da, they know that these marches hold little meaning in the eyes of those who employ them or the government which should be protecting them. Add to this the fact that the working class in Pakistan not only suffers apathy by the state but also bears direct violence in the form of attacks on their livelihoods and their homes in the name of ‘development’ or under the excuse of ‘encroachments’. None of the political parties have made the rights of workers a priority. And none of the political leaders who are trying to beat each other in their revolutionary credentials talk about workers. May Day is then yet another reminder that the workers of Pakistan need to organise because no one else can speak for them.