Recommendations for labour policy

LAHORE: The provincial women’s caucus met with experts and activists on Wednesday to discuss recommendations for the provincial labour policy expected to be passed soon by the assembly.

Homenet General-Secretary Umme Laila said the South Asian Labour Conference was about to be hosted by Punjab this year where 150 dignitaries and Saarc delegations would be present. As many issues had been ongoing for years, it was important to know how the new policy would deal with them.

Pakistan Workers’ Federation Chaudhry Yaqoob said though drafts were perfect at policy level, they needed a lot more work in terms of implementation and legislation.

“Our concerns revolve around the fact that only about three to five percent of labour is called organised, and that workers on contract are not regularised though 90 days of working automatically means a worker is a permanent employee,” he said.

He said workers were not given appointment letters which made it next to impossible for them to get old age benefits and social security.

He said if this was the status of workers in general, women workers’ condition was much worse.

“About 80 percent of workers are in the informal sector,” he said, adding that “banning trade unions, which were dominant at one time, means civil society has weakened because trade unions were a form of resistance and ensured deep rooted democracy.”

He said he was not against investment but wanted the labour policy to recognise labourers’ and workers’ due rights. Institutions must not be overstaffed so that there are no layoffs and no need for privatisation.

He suggested one union per sector such as one trade union for all hotel employees in the province, and one union for all rickshaw drivers, not several small unions working separately.

He said that labour inspection which was stopped in the PML-Q government had started again but needed to be more independent and vigilant so that there was compliance of labour laws, including health and safety, working conditions, and issues such as factories not located in residential areas which presented a danger of fire.

Mehnaz Rafi demanded a woman-oriented labour policy and prompted the women’s caucus to look beyond party lines.

Ghulam Fatima spoke about the pains of brick kiln workers, especially women, who did not receive payment, social security cards, freedom to leave work, a dangerous and harrowing workplace, and no health benefits. She said minimum wages they received were usually less than even Rs400.Labour Education Foundation Khalid Mehmood said he feared the labour policy to be merely superficial because had there been political will, the issues at hand would have been resolved earlier.

He emphasised the fact that ILO conventions regarding home-based workers and domestic workers were still not ratified in Pakistan.

Other recommendations included involvement of women as office bearers in unions on plant level, transfer of pay by banks to ensure minimum wages, the implementation of section 35 of the Factories Act that women must not work after sunset in the industries, the registration of workers, recognition of lady health workers as workers under the labour policy, provision of utility cards to workers and issuing labour laws in Urdu.

Plan of action of HNP for Display and sales center Karachi

Home Net Pakistan is non profit organization. A Net work comprises of 360 members organizations and individuals working for recognition of home based worker as worker. It also works for decent employment of the women and encouragement to mid level women entrepreneurships. HNP believe in economic empowerment of the women in the country as well as in the province. In this connection HNP Sindh holding meetings with Women Development Department Government of Sindh and request for vacant places of the department for utilizing the exhibition and display of home based women workers work and it can also help to develop the market linkages. Minister of WDD approved the request of HNP Sindh and she agreed to develop MOU with HNP for Display and Sales Center of WDD in Karachi utilize and facilitate for Home Based Women Workers (HBWWs)/mid level women entrepreneur linkages with market and skill development. In this regards HNP plan are following;

Establishment of training center for improvement of quality work and business techniques for eradicate the middle man and improvement in financial working condition in context of local/national and international market standard.

Link with the rural HBWWS / mid level entrepreneur through establishment of stalls for their work free of cost at least 3 month for one group or one mid level woman entrepreneur.

Inviting MBOs of HBWWs through DACs of HomeNet Pakistan and their partners for sale and display their work

Contact with financial institutions/organization with help of WDD who gives small loans for establishment of stall in Display and Sale Center on rental basis it will convenient for HBWWs to link with these institutions.

Arrange visits of chamber of commerce / federation of chambers of commerce and industries/ textile institute of Pakistan/ Designers/ international missions / government officials of concern departments and other related organizations for developing linkages with market.

For sustainability of this process HNP contact with advertising companies for rent a walls for advertisements / local and international donors.

Call for protection of home-based workers

HYDERABAD, Sept 14: Speakers at a consultative meeting held here on Saturday called for recognition of home-based workers as workers in their own right and protection of their fundamental human rights at workplace.

The meeting organised by the Homenet Pakistan here was addressed by labour leaders, lawyers, civil society representatives and journalists.

Homenet Pakistan Executive Director Umme Laila said the meeting which served as a reminder for the Sindh government to do away with pending provincial legislation on home-based workers (HBWs) formed a district action committee to protect their rights.

She said that her organisation had proposed necessary legislation for HBWs and forwarded its draft to the government which was pending approval by the Sindh chief minister.The workers in the informal sector had not yet been covered under the official definition of workers. The district action committee which would comprise representatives of the departments of health, social welfare, women development and Environmental Protection Agency would identify sectors where HBWs worked and gather their profiles to be able to organise them, she said.

Ms Laila said that Pakistan’s 74 per cent workers were employed in the informal sector and of them 65 per cent were HBWs. Again out of the 65 per cent, 85 per cent were women, she said.

She said that these workers were not covered under any official definition of workers and, therefore, did not have access to social security departments.

She said that informal workers were mostly working in the manufacturing sector, food processing, garments and leather industry. She had proposed the district action committee be headed by a government official because she believed that eventually action was to be taken by the government, she said.

Pakistan Workers Confederation leader Abdul Latif Nizamani said the committee’s terms of reference should be identified and underscored the need for organising workers.

Nuzhat Shireen of the Homenet said that people needed to be sensitised about the HBWs issues and defended the proposal for making a government official head of the committee. It would be a positive step which would encourage government officials and civil society organisations to work together for creating awareness about workers issues, she said.

A social worker Sajjad Khan informed the meeting that women workers did not get minimum wages fixed by the government although they were required to sign payslips of minimum wages.

They were not even registered with the social security department even though most women engaged in production of shopping bags faced serious health issues, he said.

Ms Lalila shared with the meeting draft of proposed policy on HBWs which proposed the government recognise and accept HBWs as workers in their own right through legislative and administrative actions and ensure protection of their basic human rights at workplaces.

The policy focussed on needs, concerns and demands of HBWs through an institutional approach at all levels and suggested the government ensure HBWs were given all rights and entitlements available to other wage earners performing similar work, she said.

The draft policy proposed setting up a micro-credit facility, marketing and advisory services for HBWs at district level, access to local and international markets, new legislation for HBWs and amendment to existing labour laws, space for HWBs in future planning and legislation in urban housing schemes, infrastructure, women friendly laws, health and occupational safety at workplace and right of complaint for non-payment of wages, violence, sexual harassment etc.

Home-based workers want quota in LG system

LAHORE, Aug 2: Home-based workers have filed their charter of demands to the Punjab government and urged it to ensure their sufficient representation in the local government system, according to a press release issued by the Home Net Pakistan, a non-profit organization.

The charter says self-governed, autonomous, elected and representative local governments are very important with reference to women development; the government should ensure their 33 per cent quota of reserved seats in the law.The release says elections must be held on party basis ensuring the democratic process and giving voice to the local level party representatives.

“A quota for women in reserved seats for farmers, workers and non-Muslims is provided, similarly home-based workers should be included in this quota in union council levels,” it reads.

It said that there should be no rural-urban divide in the application of local governments and union council with village council/peri urban settlement below it should be considered the primary tier while tehsil and district council should be upper tiers of local governments.

It said though the Punjab government had assured civil society organisations of implementing the aims and objectives of the provincial policy on home-based workers as approved earlier by the cabinet on March, 11 2013, and now the government should involve stakeholders in the local government system and elections.

Minimum Wages

Govt asked to legislate for home-based workers rights

LAHORE: The government has been asked to legislate for the protection of rights of home-based workers (HBWs) in the country, as speaker at a panel discussion said on Saturday that absence of proper laws is resulting in exploitation of millions of suppressed workers.

The discussion was arranged at the office of HomeNet Pakistan – an NGO working for the welfare of HBWs.

Participants called for gearing up the process of approving a policy for HBWs that rests with the Punjab government so that such workers could get legal recognition for their rights.

Civil society members said that the government should introduce legislation in favour of women workers associated with the business of kite making, and provide them with alternate skills and earning opportunities.

Ume Laila from HomeNet Pakistan said the plight of home-based workers associated with kite-making sector is making them vulnerable and crossing all forms of violations.

People who are skilled workers are living below poverty line and not attaining decent livelihoods for the household, Laila said.

“The need of time is to link these workers and their children with economic generating vocations so that they can contribute to the country’s economy,” she said.

According to an estimate, she said, about 12 million home-based workers across the country are at an initial phase of organising.

“Still, they urge the government to recognise them as workers so that they could also enjoy the benefits associated with labour laws such as social security, EOBI, death grant, marriage grant and dowry fund,” Laila said.

Violence against women

`Kite-makers need to eat too`

LAHORE – HomeNet Pakistan on Thursday held an awareness meeting to highlight the need for government arrangements for the livelihood of female kite-makers. At the meeting, they said that it was imperative to support the kite-making sector as it had the potential of becoming a major export industry of Pakistan. To highlight the issues of kite-makers, the speakers said that there was a need to impart alternative skills to kite-makers. They also demanded for alternate skills and business training for people in this sector. South Asia Partnership Director Irfan Mufti said that these workers needed to organise themselves in a group, an organisation or union to have demands addressed. He further said that government should acknowledge this as an industry with potential for export.

Working environment of Homebased Workers is not good

Home-based workers` issues highlighted

LAHORE: Urban poverty certainly is a challenge in Pakistan, normally intellectually, socially and economically but most to all politically. There is no policy of alleviating urban poverty in Pakistan, while 50 percent population lives in cities, HomeNet Pakistan Executive Director Laila Azhar said on Thursday.

HomeNet Pakistan held a one-day workshop with government officials on key issues of Home-Based Workers (HBW) at a local hotel. HomeNet Director Laila said that poor conditions of roads and streets, ill-conceived planning and implementation of the development projects, unavailability of drinking water, poor education, long distanced transportation facilities, bedding of streets above the level of houses with back-flow of water, failure of electricity create fundamental livelihood issues of homebased women workers by low income, less order-work and loss of saving.

Social Welfare Department Director Industries Naghmi Arshad said that they will make two new mini industries for HBW besides will help in teaching them in different departments, order work and to participate in different exhibitions too. Social Security Director Attaur Rehman said that all HBW should be given their registration cards and giving free medical treatments should facilitate their children. He further said that for this effort all HBW have to be united and in case if HomeNet is been registered by Social Security then the women related it can be facilitated by social security.

HomeNet Program Officer Javed Pasha said that the main purpose of this one-day workshop was to address these urban issues of HBWs in Labour city. He said that the objectives of the workshop were to highlight the Key livelihood issues of Home based workers in Lahore city of different trades of Home based workers, and sensitize the representatives from different departments of city government on them.

HomeNet’s Naseemur Rehman said that the major purposes were to sensitize the representatives from different departments of city government and other organisations and discuss about the potential strategically options to link the HBWs to the existing available schemes and policy of the city government.