Home Based Workers of
Punjab should unite to get there rights:
Home Based Workers (HBWs) in Pakistan must unite on a
platform to raise their collective voice, to claim their rights, to make
government institutions responsive towards their needs, to motivate
government to ratify the ILO convention 177 on Home Work and to strive
for implementation of Minimum Wage Act.
These were the joint concerns and
opinions shared by the participants in the ‘Home Based Workers
Convention’ held by Labour Education Foundation (LEF) on 18th
October 2012 at Bakhtiar Labour Hall Lahore.
The convention was attended by
approximately 400 HBW from Lahore and Sheikhupura districts including
government and non-government stakeholders besides development
practitioners and human rights activists and media persons.
Speakers were from HomeNet Pakistan
(Maria Kukab), Usama Tariq Deputy General Secretary Pakistan Workers
Confederation, National Trade Union Federation General Secretary Niaz
Khan, Labour Department Muhammad Ishaq and representatives of HBWs.
While speaking on this occasion,
Associate Director of LEF, Shahnaz Iqbal presented an overall situation
of HBWs, reasons for increase in informal sector, challenges faced by
the workers, constitutional guarantees and steps taken by the civil
society and the government.
Mohammad Ishaq from Labour Department
said that the draft policy and the proposed law on home based workers
interlinked and would simultaneously come into force. After the
legislation, employees would be indentified and registered. Bill is
under observation of Punjab Chief Minister.
Maria Kokab from HomeNet Pakistan
explained the salient components of the drafted policy for home based
workers and how it will ensure their status as workers and other
benefits. Advocacy for the social protection and legislation supporting
HBW’s by civil society and efforts by the government of Pakistan over
the last decade resulted in a series of consultation and a draft
national policy on HBW’s was finalized.
social activist Nazli Javaid said the HBWs, particularly women, needed
to unite in some form so that their voice could be heard. She further
said that it is important to get recognition and for that HBWs have to
be active and claim their rights.
ensure that the rights of the HBWs are protected and to make a
significant contribution to the social development of the community, it
is necessary that the HBWs are united in form of trade unions, a trade
union activist Niaz Khan said while describing the importance of
documentary based on Bangle workers of Hyderabad was shown to the
A training workshop on the topic of problems and process of unionization
was organized with home based workers by the Labour Education
Foundation. Around 40 women belonging to Toba Tek Singh, Kamaliya and
Gojra districts participated in it.
Mehmood, while speaking to the participants said that there are
approximately 80 percent home based women workers in Toba Tek Singh. He
quoted the real picture of home based workers and talked about the
problems which they face in their daily lives. He further said that in
kamaliya and Toba Tek Singh home based workers are getting very low
wages and they face socio-economic problems.
While giving suggestions, the speakers said that we have to work for
home based workers and ensure the implementation of laws regarding
them. Effective sharing of information should be done to educate and
enhance their consciousness level. Khalid Mehmood said,
is estimated that there are around 100 million home based workers; more
than half of these are
Asia while around 80% of these 50 million are women but they are facing
numerous problems and they are not given their proper rights. He
announced a union named as Home Based Women Workers Union of Toba Tek
Singh in consultation with the participants and gave few recommendations
based workers should be considered as worker.
Home based workers should be allowed to make Trade union.
Freedom of association and collective bargaining should be granted.
Same facilities should be given to home based workers which general
workers are getting under Labour Laws.
of Shiekh Kalb Ali: A prominent Left wing leader, a labour lawyer
by profession, started his career in Railway workers union and then was
nominated as a Joint Secretary under the leadership of Mirza Ibrahim. He
belongs to a middle class family, a true comrade who believes in a
socialist ideology and has great command on Socio-political issues of
Q1: What do you think about the
present condition of the politics of the Left?
I am a little depressed and
disappointed due to fragmentation of the Left. At the same time, I am
encouraged to see that Left's ideas are spreading in different social
tiers of our society. People are organizing themselves at local levels
for the defense of their rights and demands. I hope with the passage of
time a countrywide Left political party or alliance will definitely
emerge and will take forward the Left's ideology in Pakistan. The Left
has played a critical role in the struggle for democracy and rights of
workers in Pakistan. But since the early 1990s the Left has suffered a
decline which helped in the emergence of extremist groups.
Q: What is a trade union and what are relevant laws in Pakistan for
trade union activities?
in Pakistan define trade union as a combination of workmen whose primary
purpose is to promote and defend workers’ rights and interests in an
industry or establishment.
The right to
join association is guaranteed under article 17 of the Constitution of
Islamic Republic of Pakistan, which says, “Every citizen shall have the
right to form associations or unions, subject to any reasonable
restrictions imposed by law in the interest of sovereignty or integrity
of Pakistan, public order or morality”. Article 17 of the Constitution
not only guarantees freedom of association but also collective
bargaining as a fundamental right.
view this provision, labour laws in Pakistan allow formation and joining
of trade unions/associations to both the employers and the employees.
There is a special law in Pakistan for trade union registration and
settlement of industrial disputes i.e., Industrial Relations Act. After
passage of 18th Constitutional amendment, labour is no longer a subject
on concurrent list i.e. central government can no longer legislate in
labour related matters. Though provinces are allowed to legislate in
labour matters now, yet only Punjab province has enacted its “Punjab
Industrial Relations Act 2010”. Workers are entitled to join a union
without previous authorization with any union ; however, they can become
members of only one union at a time. If a worker joins more than one
union at a time, his earlier membership will get cancelled. Moreover,
both workers and employers have the right to join federations and
confederations, which have the right to affiliate with international
What is a living wage?
A living wage is an income for work
that is sufficient to satisfy the basic needs of an employee and his/her
family. This means that the worker gets enough money to pay for
sufficient food, housing, clothing and other indispensable services such
as transportation, healthcare, and children’s education. The part of the
income to pay for these ‘other’ indispensable needs is also known as
‘discretionary’ income because it is at everyone’s own discretion how
this part of the wage will be used. Thus for families with children
education will have priority. But for childless workers expenses for
healthcare, leisure, or transport may be more important. Hence the term
‘discretion’: everyone should have the choice to spend part of their
income in whatever way they like, i.e. at their own discretion.
Q: What are international labour standards?
Labour Standards, in the form of conventions and recommendations, have
been set up by the ILO and its tripartite constituents to safeguard the
fundamental rights of workers. Currently, there are 188 conventions and
200 recommendations. The difference between Conventions and
Recommendations is that Conventions are legally binding treaties after
ratification however recommendations are just policy guidelines. A
country can't be forced to follow the recommendations however it is
under legal obligation to respect and follow the ratified conventions. A
member country is also under obligation to respect ILO Core Conventions
which cover the fundamental rights at work i.e. child labour,
forced/bonded labour, equality and freedom to organize and represent.
Pakistan does not follow the direct enforcement of international
treaties principle, which means that when ratified, it also has to
change the labour law and these international conventions can be applied
only though national labour law.
Q3: Is Living wage a basic human
To earn a living wage, the employee
should not be required to work excessively long hours. A living wage
should be earned during normal working hours. What is considered ‘normal
working hours’ however varies across countries? Yet, international
organizations such as the ILO who foster decent work standards, advise
that a normal working week should not exceed 48 hours. But living wage
can also vary over time. It can rise not only with inflation (continuous
rise in prices over time) but also with economic progress of a country.
The World Bank, the OECD, the ILO and
the United Nations acknowledge living wage to be a fundamental human
right. Each individual who works for a living should have a right to an
income that secures him/her and his/her family a decent living standard,
in terms of food, housing, clothing, health, education and means to get
What will you say to the working class of Pakistan?
present era the situation of Pakistan is not good. Politicians are not
giving much attention to the problems faced by the general public. I
personally believe that working class should unite and work with trade
unions. Most importantly they should come in power politics with the
help of these trade unions and labour organizations.
Labour Community organizations held 7 study circles in different areas
of Sheikupura and Lahore in October 2012 on the topic of “Present
Situation of Home Based Workers”. Approximately 119 women attended
these seven study circles. The main focus for these study circles was to
enhance their knowledge and give proper information regarding their
work. Study circles highlighted that
woman home based workers in Pakistan
are often exploited, receiving low wages and having no access to social
security schemes. But due to five years struggle, a bill for home based
workers has been presented in Punjab Assembly to get approval.
recommendations were sorted out during these study circles that:
Home based workers should be considered as a worker.
15,000 should be the minimum salary per month.
Social Security cards should be issued.
For getting Identity Card, mobile vans should be arranged.