These views were expressed by the labor leaders while addressing a protest demonstration organized by the National Trade Union Federation of Pakistan (NTUF) on Tuesday, May 19 at Habib Chowrangi, Site Area, Karachi. The demonstration was led by the provincial president of the federation, Comrade Gul Rehman. Apart from the representatives of various affiliate unions, the workers who were sacked and deprived of their wages also participated in the demonstration.
Nasir Mansoor, secretary-general of the National Trade Union Federation of Pakistan, said that firing on workers for demanding legitimate rights was a highly reprehensible act. The dangerous thing is that the police themselves are also involved in this heinous act and are protecting the interests of the capitalists by becoming a party in an industrial dispute. The firing on workers at Denim Clothing Mills, Korangi, which manufactures clothing for international brands such as H&M, is clear evidence that the capitalists want to intimidate workers and suppress their movement.
“Unfortunately, concern government departments, judiciary, and political parties care only about the wellbeing of factory owners, traders, and transporters, but they do not care about the basic rights of the millions of workers who drive the productive and economic wheels,” he added. At present, more than 6 million workers have been laid off, while more than 40% of the informal sector, especially home-based workers, have lost their jobs & livelihoods.
Its irony of the situation that the government had announced numbers of economic packages for industrialists and its implementation had been started, while the announced aid program for workers has not yet reached them. Unemployed workers’ families have been starving for the past three months and the prime minister is still planning in his resort to deliver the relief package.
Young labor leader Aqib Hussain, who is also the joint secretary of the J&P Workers’ Union, said the government had allowed most factories to resume production but failed to comply with the precautionary measures (SOPs). The lives of millions of workers are in danger. There is no one to bring to justice those who endanger human beings for the sake of profit.
He said that the Labor Department has failed miserably to protect workers ‘rights in this crisis, and the courts have not acted promptly on the constitutional and legal petitions filed to protect workers’ rights. While Labor department officials who are responsible for enforcing labor laws are telling employers how to sack workers.
Saira Feroze, vice-president of the Home-Based Women Workers Federation, said that despite the issuance of the ordinance, no notification has been issued yet on the modalities of its implementation, which has called into question the usefulness of the ordinance. This situation is painful for the workers as they do not know where to complain about the factory establishment which has not implemented this ordinance.
Babar Khan, general secretary of the Rauf Textile Labor Union, said growing lawlessness in industrial enterprises and blatant violation of labor laws in the face of this dangerous epidemic and economic crisis was forcing workers to resist and decide issues on the streets. Workers are forced to sit in front of factories during the hot summer in months of Ramadan.
Veteran labor leader Comrade Gul Rehman said that under the guise of the Corona epidemic, the factory management was refusing to pay bonuses to the workers while the workers were being forced to resign from their permanent jobs and work under the illegal subcontract system.
The working class will not tolerate this situation for long. At the next stage, the Sindh Assembly will be cordoned off and if injustice does not stop, sit-ins will be organized at the residences of industrialists and concerned government officials.
The demonstrators demanded that
• Immediate action should be taken against the General Manager of Denim Clothing Mills and SHO of the area for firing on unarmed workers and the police officer involved in the incident should be suspended.
• Ensure payment of wages and bonuses to all factory workers well before Eid.
• The series of forced dismissals of workers in factories should be stopped immediately & violators should be punished according to law.
• All citizens should be registered under social security and pension schemes.
• Responsibilities for the implementation of the Cove 19 Ordinance should be given to the concerned departments as well as the local administration including the Commissioners, Deputy Commissioners through notification with immediate effects.
• The police should be ordered to stop intimidating the workers at the behest of the factory owners.
• Announce a special aid package for the unorganized sector, especially home-based workers, and implement it immediately.
• All foreign loans should be denied and this money should be spent on the welfare of the citizens especially on their health and education.
• In the next budget, the minimum salary should be 30,000 and the current amount of pension should be doubled.
• Health and education budget should be equated with defense spending.
Issued by: National Trade Union Federation of Pakistan.