60m labour force denied fundamental rights: Report

Islamabad - Above 60 million labour force of the country is denied its fundamental rights in public and private sector, including non implementation of the payment of the minimum wage announced by the government, said a Human Rights Commission Pakistan (HRCP) report.

The recently released report disclosed that the implementation of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UN conventions and covenants relating to labour standards and human rights are an ongoing problem in the country.  The HRCP report said that the minimum wage for unskilled workers announced by the federal and provincial governments were never implemented for majority of employees as most industries and commercial establishments were still reluctant to pay even that wage.  For the fiscal year 2017-18 this rate has been fixed as Rs 15000 per month, only Rs1000 above the last fiscal year. Meanwhile, no increase has been made for the monetary year 2018-19 declaring it the provincial subject.  The report recommended that all provinces and Islamabad Capital Territory should organize their respective tripartite labour consultation before passing labour legislation as required under ILO Convention 144.

It further said that the calculation of living wage should be based on research of cost of living and price hikes. And that Pakistan should urgently ratify ILO Convention on Home-based workers and subsequently enact or revise federal and provincial policies and laws accordingly. According to the report Labour Force Survey provides the official data about Pakistan’s existing labour force and the last report was released in 2014-15 and according to the survey’s estimate Pakistan’s labour force is 61.04million.

Moreover, according to the Labour Force Survey data, out of 61.4million, 22% were women and 67.8 percent were male workers. The majority of workforce, 42.3 percent was employed in agriculture, forestry and fishing. This was followed by industrial manufacturing sector which employed 15.3 percent, then construction whole sale, retail transport and community service sectors. The report said that Pakistan’s workers are mostly unorganized and trade unions memberships have drastically reduced over the years. According to estimates currently only one or three percent of labour is organized under trade unions in the country. Mostly trade unions are in public sector unions while in private sector either do not exist or are pocket unions formed by the employers to meet international export requirements. In both government and private sectors, employees continued to struggle for their rights.

Home-based Workers

An ILO report published in 2017 Pakistan’s Hidden Workers: Wage and Conditions of home-based workers and the informal economy, highlighted the vulnerability of home based workers. Majority of them are women and they lack protections and access to collective bargaining. The wage rate is generally set by middlemen and they are chronically and significantly underpaid. It is estimated that there are 5 million home-based workers and they are deprived of all legal benefits available under the labour laws.

Mine Workers

Mines are located in all four provinces as well as Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The coal mines in Baluchistan and Sindh are very difficult workplaces where thousands of workers are engaged in mining without occupational safety and health conditions. The record indicates that over 220 workers had lost their lives in fatal mining accidents during the period 2010-16.

Farm Workers

Tenants of the Okara farms continued their struggle for ownership rights. The repression of the administration continued against leaders of Anjuman Mazareen, many of whom are still languishing in jails and are facing different cases.

New lab or legislation

After the 18th amendment of the constitution the subject of the labour legislation was devolved to the princes, which started making their own labour laws. The pace of the new legislation in provinces is slower in most provinces apart from Sindh, where the maximum number of new labour laws has been passed.  Report also said that legislation on occupational safety and health facilities awaits adoption and during 2017 more deaths was reported from coal mines in Balochistan, where occupational safety and health facilities are negligible.

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