Int’l Labour Day


Dignity of Labour

By Jamil Khan

INTERNATIONAL Labour Day, popularly known as May Day, is celebrated on May 1 in every part of the world to commemorate the historical struggle of the working class.

In Pakistan, different NGOs organise various programmes to celebrate the day. A number of programmes will be held which will include meetings, rallies, seminars, torch-bearing processions, etc, to highlight the problems faced by labourers in the country. Unfortunately, the overall condition of labourers in Pakistan is not satisfactory as employers do not pay much attention towards the welfare of their employees. It is also worth mentioning that there is not a single institute to impart training of various skills to labourers. Like the private sector, the government is also not doing much to provide healthcare facilities, housing, schooling, etc. to labourers.
Here a number of people from different walks of life share their views with us regarding their working conditions.

Barkat Ali, a gardener from the City District Government working for the last 20 years, says: “Working in scorching heat is very difficult, but then with my kind of job, there is no way that I can avoid it. Luckily, after much service in the city government, I’m able to provide better living conditions to my family members,” he said.
Mashooq Ali, 70, has been selling old and rare books and other literary material at the weekly bazaar organised at Regal Chowk in Saddar. “I am here for the last 25 years selling rare books after collecting these from different parts of the city. I go on foot. There is no organisation that protects the rights of daily wage workers”, he described. Mashooq Ali also disclosed that harassment by police and town administration officials are creating more problems for such workers who are selling books with a huge variety, magazines and other printed material on very nominal prices.
Like him, Zamir Ahmed a donkey cart operator also revealed the pathetic conditions of hard labour on maximum charges. “I have to transport different types of material from one place to another on my donkey-cart which hardly help to generate much money for my family,” he said.

Abdur Rehman, a middle-age worker of KESC said that sometimes they have to work on live electricity cables to find out the fault which is very risky. “There are no safety measures adopted by the department to protect the workers who climb on the ladder while replacing the faulty electric cables,” he said.
Shehbaz, a mobile mechanic said that they totally depend on seasonal jobs which merely cover the expenses in his home. He said that like him a number of motor mechanics can be found roaming on their bicycles in different areas looking for jobs. “Our job depends on the vehicles that break down on major roads; we fix them at the same spot and earn some money”, he stated.
Saleem, a salesman of a private firm, supplying confectionery and other items to shopkeepers in different parts of the city on a regular basis, said “the working conditions of a salesman are not favourable as we roam all day from one shop to another. The company provides us with facilities, but we have no choice and cannot change our job”, he added.
Barkat Ali, a painter, was waiting for work at Johar Chowrangi as he is a daily wage worker. He mentioned that he is working in this field for the last 18 years and has not succeeded to join a reputable firm to get a better job. “We totally depend on daily wages, if anyone wants to paint their shop or house we get the job but the money we get for our work is not sufficient. Sometimes the police officials force us to work for them without any payment,” he said.
However, the workers who are working in high-rise buildings, on electric poles, mobile phone antenna towers and such other odd places have no means of safety to protect their lives. These workers have no choice but to work in the same adverse conditions as the government and other authorities failed to draw any rules and regulations to protect them.
-Published in Young World-Dawn | April 29, 2005


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