A shriek for labor rights


Lahore: Delay in the provincial legislation aimed at improving conditions for the home-based workers has irked them resulting in continuous protests till the acceptance of their demands.

Garment making, hand-loom weaving and selling newspapers are the major types of informal labor sector in which home-based workers mainly work. According to Home Net Pakistan, an alliance of NGOs which works for the rights of home-based workers, there are 5 million home-based workers in the country, out of which 80 percent are women living in urban areas and their suburbs.

A home-based worker Nazia Jameel told News Lens Pakistan how hard life was for her as she was not receiving the proper wage.” I along with my sister weave a sweater for PKR 300-400($3-4) that is sold at the price of PKR 3000-4000 ($30-40) in the market. The whole profit goes to the middleman.” Nazia said she was not entitled to get any medical or retirement plan since she was not considered a laborer as per law. “We will continue our struggle until complete acceptance of our demands,” she added.

Jamila Bibi, another home-based worker from Gujranwala district, has also hit the roads in hope of getting labor status and to obtain reasonable financial and economic benefits. “I weave carpets for meager wages which do not allow me to meet both ends,” she said while talking to News Lens Pakistan.

During a telephonic interview, Amna Qureshi, also a home-based worker told News Lens Pakistan that although she worked for 16 hours a day, she was still unable to earn enough to unable to feed her school-going children properly.

Finance Secretary of Progressive Home Based Workers Federation Nazli Javed is of the view that the government should take legislative measures for the rights of home-based workers before further delay. “Women home-based workers work in 19th century working condition since they earn just for living because no law recognizes their work.”  Nazli said they would continue supporting home-based workers until the latter got a labour status through legislative action of the government. The parliamentarians ignored them to avoid social security benefits to be given by the government, she added.

In an interview with News Lens Pakistan, Shahnaz Iqbal, the Associate Director of Labor Education Foundation, an NGO that works for the rights of such workers, said time had come for home-based workers to raise their voices against such injustice. “They are treated like dysfunctional sector in the society despite their 70 percent contribution in the economic sector of the country. It is height of injustice that neither legal recognition nor social and economic status has been designed for such workers.”

She added that Pakistan is signatory of ILO Convention that bounds the government to formulate a federal policy and introduce provincial legislations for such workers. She lamented the successive governments, including the current government, for ignoring the international obligation that was, according to her, sheer violation of human rights.

Syed Hasnat, the Director of Labor Department Punjab government, admitted that there were no laws in the province that recognized the services of home-based workers. He added that a draft of Punjab Home Based Workers Bill was ready and the first phase of registering 10,000 workers had been started. “We will legislate keeping in view the guidelines of ILO-convention and government will leave no stone unturned in this regard,” he said while speaking to News Lens Pakistan. He said registration and proper counting of home-based workers and the role of middleman in their work was an uphill task, but the government is working to meet the challenge.


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