HYDERABAD, Oct 8: The Home-based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) has demanded that the government ratify Convention 177 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and recognise home-based labourers as workers under the labour laws.
The demand was made at a rally organised by the federation on Oct 7 to mark the “International Decent Work Day”.
A large number of women workers of the informal sector, including those belonging to the glass bangle cottage industry, participated in the rally led by HBWWF central general secretary Zahra Khan.
Speaking at the rally, Ms Khan said that like other parts of the world, in Pakistan the production process was being shifted from the formal to the informal sector. This resulted in depriving workers of all the privileges they were entitled under local and international labour laws.
She said the number of women workers in the informal sector was rising with each passing day. There were about 16 million women workers in Pakistan who were not recognised as workers under the labour laws, though they had been playing an important role in the textile, garments, leather, sports goods and other important industrial sectors, she explained.
As these workers were not within the ambit of the law, they were deprived of the rights to social security, old age benefit, making union and electing CBA.
She said that in this situation the home-based women workers had made a historic achievement by getting their organisation registered under the name of the Home-Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) which had been struggling for ratification of Convention 177 of the ILO.
Home-based Women Bangle Workers Union general secretary Jameela Jabbar said hundreds of thousands of women workers of the glass bangle industry faced problems due to pathetic work conditions. Harmful chemicals used in the glass bangle industry were spreading cancer, TB, joint pain, asthma and others diseases among them. These women worked along with their whole families for 12 to 14 hours a day for meagre wages.
National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) leader Shakeela Khan said to get more and more profit industrialists had launched contract labour system with full force. Workers were left at the mercy of market forces in violation of all labour laws and norms. These market rules were set by big corporations, multinational companies and international financial institutions, she added.
She said that despite the verdict of the Supreme Court of Pakistan against contract labour, capitalists were reluctant to end this cruel system. They enjoyed a covert support of the government in this regard, she claimed.
Speaking about the day, she said Pakistani workers like labourers of the whole world also pledged to struggle for elimination of the contract labour system and the precarious work.
Meanwhile, the participants passed some resolutions and presented demands that all workers of the informal sector be accepted as workers under the labour laws.
They demanded that the home-based workers be registered with Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution and social security institutions. A policy for home-based workers should be announced immediately. The government should ratify Convention 177 of the ILO.
They said the contract labour system should be ended and for permanent nature of work, formal recruitment should be given to workers. The right of forming labour unions and CBAs should be ensured. Privatisation should be stopped.
Calling for facilities of health and safety, they demanded that minimum wages should be fixed at Rs20,000 per month at least and it should be increased proportionally with price hike.
Published by Daily Dawn on Oct 8, 2015