Pakistan’s Working Class – Protected Yet Unaware

Pakistan’s Working Class – Protected Yet Unaware

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Coming week Pakistan and majority of the countries will observe Labor Day. Celebrated on 1st of May, Labor Day is recognition of the labor force. Stemming from United States (celebrated on first Monday of September), the day marks efforts of suppressed labor class and helps promoting healthy and competitive working environment.

By definition, anyone who performs unskilled tasks for a living is a labor. Also known as blue collar job force, anyone who sweats his day for a livelihood falls under the category. Pakistan has a strong labor force of approx. sixty million making it world’s 7th largest working class. An agriculturally driven country, about forty five percent of the force is employed in the sector. Over twenty percent of the force is employed in industries while thirty six percent are known to serve under various other categories. Trade and labor unions are legal under the constitution of Pakistan, yet it appears the fate of the working class is full of hardship and cruelty

A horrifying example of this made it to limelight with a video surfacing on social media of a factory owner beating his employees. While subjugation of labor is nothing new in the country, the video (apparently leaked) catches the factory owner beating both male and female staff, thrashing them with wooden stick and slapping them. The clips that were recorded through CCTV cameras and leaked by a former employee depict the tragedy our labor class faces. An inquiry has already been ordered by Chief Minister Sindh, Murad Ali Shah.

Watch full video here.

So, are there any laws and provisions for protection of the working class? Surprisingly, Pakistan has a good number of federal and provincial laws that cover various aspects of working class. From child labor to gender equality and from appropriate workman compensation to healthy working environment every aspect has been dealt in detail legislatively. Allowing labor class to form unions, the law permits the workforce to file for and against any cruelty at proper legal platforms. There are dedicated Labor Appellate Tribunals and Courts functioning in every province.

What’s the Number?

There are more than thirty five laws and set of policies that govern the labor class in Pakistan. While these laws provide for legal cover to the working class, they also help employers in avoiding untoward circumstances such as shutdowns and strikes. The steering document happens to be the Labor Policy 2010. Published after a gap of eight years, the policy highlights prominent factors. Three sections (39-41) have been dedicated to advocacy, rights of workers and employers decent work. The provisions cover for, opportunities for productive, remunerative and safe work; social protection; respect for workers’ basic rights and interests; and social dialogue. Acting as a guarantor the government assures for, full adherence of labor laws and workers friendly environment in all establishments to promote decent work in the country.

Where the Fault Lies?

With such abundance of laws one wonders why such cruelty goes unnoticed and without punishment. The one at fault happen to be none other than the laborers themselves. While the ones employed in agriculture may have to face wraths of waderas and jageerdars, even the urban force largely ignores such practices, accepting it as fate. The major reasons being, poor justice, illiteracy, and growing inflation and unemployment. While it is up to the government to make the worker aware of his or her rights, no such provisions are provided for in the policy let alone any dedicated legislation. Owing to poor literacy in terms of legal and in general, labor force is largely unaware of their rights. And while it is easy for many of us to leave or switch jobs, the labor class faces dearth of opportunities making them cling to whatever they have in whichever form.
One only wishes that government treats this video as an example by punishing the culprits behind restoring the faith of workers in law.

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