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Labour Education Foundation organised a Tripartite Dialogue on Social Protection for Brick Kiln Worker

Tripartite Dialogue on Social Protection for Brick Kiln Worker
Labour Education Foundation organised a tripartite dialogue among workers, employers and government representatives in Lahore with the main focus of providing social protection and attached benefits to brick kiln workers engaged at thousands of brick kilns across the province. 

The dialogue provided an opportunity to different stakeholders to sit under one roof and find out workable solutions to this issue. It was stressed that in the absence of social security cover, the brick kiln workers are compelled to take loans and advances (peshgi) from their employers to meet their urgent needs.

There was a consensus among most of the participants that this dependence on peshgi promotes bonded labour and generations after generations have to keep paying back these loans. The wages they get are far less than the minimum wages announced by the government and even these wages are given to them after deduction of loan installments.

On this occasion, Khalid Mehmood, Director, LEF, said social protection is the right of all workers and once registered they are entitled to get facilities like medical coverage for self and family, marriage grant, free education for children etc. But unfortunately, he said, the employers hardly get brick kiln workers registered with the social security department and save the monetary contribution they have to make on behalf of their employees. This must change now and workers shall be taken as an asset and not liability, he stressed.

Other speakers of the event included Deputy Secretary Labour and Human Resource Department Punjab Sohail Shehzad, Director BISP Shabir Akbar Zaidi, Programme Manager Khidmat Cards Nazir Malik, Assistant Direcoter NADRA Syed Ali Raza, MPA Mian Rafique, Farooq Tariq Spokesperson Awami Workers Party (AWP), Chief Financial Officer Punjab Faisal Muqeet, Director EOBI Malik Niaz Hussain and President Pakistan Brick Kiln Owners Association (PBKOA) Shoaib Khan Niazi.

President Pakistan Brick Kiln Owners Association (PBKOA) Shoaib Khan Niazi shared Pakistan is the third largest brick producing country in South Asia, producing more than 45 billion bricks per year and there are around 18,000 brick kilns across the country contributing 1.5 percent in Gross Domestic Product (GDP). He said around 10,000 of these brick kilns are located in Punjab.

He said earlier the brick kilns were traditional and workers were exposed to severe health hazards due to exposure to intense heat and smoke. "Now we have introduced zigzag brick kilns in the province that are environment friendly and do not affect workers' health. This shows workers are a priority. Hopefully, social protection will be extended to them in times to follow," he added. Government of Punjab was not cooperating with the owners of brick kilns in this regards. He demanded subsidy from Government of Punjab to promote environment friendly brick kilns. Mr. Niazi agreed to sit with union and discuss issues related to social protection and minimum wages.

Farooq Tariq from AWP said social security was recognised as a basic human right under the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. Since then, he said, the concept of social security has developed and expanded into the broader right to social protection.

Farooq said unfortunately the situation in Pakistan is not well. Out of the 68 million labour forces in Pakistan, more than 75 per cent is working in the informal sector and denied the right to social security. Besides, he said, a very low percentage of these is covered under cash grant schemes like Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) and the rest is a victim of sheer neglect by the state.

Chief Financial Officer Punjab Faisal Muqeet said that about 80,000 Khidmat cards have been provided to children working on brick kilns to eliminate child labour.

Director BISP Syed Shabir Akbar Zaidi said BISP eliminates poverty of women and Rs 4,300 are provided to women after every quarter in a year.

NADRA Assistant Director Syed Ali Raza said that CNIC is identification of an individual and it is a fundamental right of every citizen in the country. NADRA gives identification to everyone. Around 80 percent of the population has been issued CNIC. NADRA has offered mobiles van for CNIC to brick kilns workers. NADRA has ended any kind of attestation for the welfare of people.

Sohail Shehzad deputy Secretary Labour Department said, Labour department has eliminated bonded labour from brick kilns across the province. According to him 46000 families have been provided khidmat cards on brick kilns. Moreover, 87000 children have been placed in schools of the province. To end complete child labour, a help line to find children will be introduced in a two months said Deputy Secretary. Free books, free education and other facilities are being provided to the workers’ children, he expressed while talking in the event.

Yousif Baloch, Ume-e-Laila, advocate Rai Haq Nawaz , Mehmood Butt, Shahzadi Arsha, Dr Huma Tabassum and Hafeez Buzdar of HRCP addressed on the occasion.





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