NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD FROM MARCH 31ST TO APRIL 5TH
OVER 5,000 DRIVERS, HELPERS REMAIN STRANDED ON AFGHAN BORDER
By MUHAMMAD ALI on March 31, 2020
Despite the announcement of reopening of the Pak-Afghan border by Prime Minister Imran Khan on March 20, over 1,700 loaded vehicles are still stranded, increasing the chances of COVID-19 outbreak in the border areas.
The issue was highlighted by the All Pakistan Customs Bonded Carrier Association (APCBCA) in a letter sent to the prime minister.
APCBCA said that around 5,600 drivers/cleaners are stranded at both sides of the Pak-Afghan border for the last about 30 days, and no COVID-19 case has so far been reported among them.
Therefore, it has been requested to allow them transporting Afghan transit goods as the cargo transportation across the country is allowed to be carried out in order to maintain the supply chain of the essential commodities and necessary raw material to protect the industry and allow it to continue its production.
It said that the Pak-Afghan border was opened for three days on March 20, but, unfortunately, over 1,700 vehicles were still stuck there due to procedural delays, leaving around 5,600 drivers/cleaners stranded near the Pak-Afghan border with no basic facilities.
The association urged the authorities to conduct fumigation exercise for all the vehicles stopped en-route due to border closure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and allow them transporting Afghan transit cargos in order to maintain the supply chain of food, medicines, merchandise and the goods necessary for Afghan people.
A chock-a-block of drivers/cleaners with loaded trucks at the Pak-Afghan border has increased the chances of spreading COVID-19 in the border areas.
The transit trade activities at Chaman has been lying suspended since March 3 while the Torkham border was closed on March 16 on the request of the Afghan government due to COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Directorate General of Transit Trade, around 1,587 forward transit containers were stuck in the route to the Chaman border and around 526 were parked between Peshawar and Torkham route, which started their journey from Karachi port and Bin Qasim port.
“With the announcement of complete moratorium of all activities on the western border to secure the health and safety of the people of Pakistan, the federal government has left drivers and cleaners at the mercy of the deadly virus, raising fears that these places could become a breeding ground for the coronavirus,” said Arshad Jamal, chairman of the All Pakistan Customs Agents Association (APCAA).
He requested Prime Minister Imran Khan to issue directives for ensuring COVID-19 tests of the drivers and cleaners, and if their tests were negative then they should be allowed to transport transit goods to Afghanistan and return with empty containers.
“Apart from that, the risk factor is higher for the stranded cargos worth billions and so far there is no protection for these cargos,” he said and urged the authorities to make arrangements for stationing these stranded cargos at a safe place in order to protect them from miscreants.
Furthermore, Arshad said the accumulated losses in terms of containers demurrages and detention besides truck damages soared to Rs58 million per day hence the authorities should not only direct the shipping companies and terminal operations to waive all charges but also restrict the customs department to avoid blocking the NTN of bonded carriers automatically through WeBOC system due to delays in delivering the cargos during this extraordinary situation.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2020
Thousands of miners stranded in Sindh, Balochistan
Manzoor Ali April 03, 2020
PESHAWAR: Thousands of miners from different districts of Malakand division have been stranded in Sindh and Balochistan for two weeks due to the lockdown enforced to stem the spread of novel coronavirus (Covid-19).
Complaining about shortage of food and drinking water, they say they will die of starvation even if they survive the virus.
Majority of these miners belong to Shangla district, which provides most of the workforce to dig coalmines across the country. The others are from Dir and Swat districts.
Miners told Dawn over the phone that thousands of them had been stranded either in Lakhra area of Sindh and on the outskirts of Quetta city in Balochistan and couldn’t return to hometowns due to lockdown, so things were extremely difficult for them.
Fatah Gul, a miner from Alpuri area of Shangla district, who is trapped in Lakhra area of Jamshoro district, said the coalmines had been closed for 13 days due to the outbreak of Covid-19.
Say they’ll die of starvation if not coronavirus
He said most miners were employed by contractors, who had returned to Karachi and Hyderabad, leaving them to fend for themselves.
The miner said around 10,000 people worked in coalmines but many of them left for home soon after the lockdown was enforced.
He said around 5,000 miners had got stuck in own camps in Lakhra and suffered from the shortage of food and drinking water.
“If it is not due to coronavirus, then the hunger and thirst is going to kill us,” he said.
Mr Gul said miners were provided by contractor with ration on a monthly basis but the former had been facing problems since the latter’s departure.
He asked the KP government to arrange buses for them.
“The rent-a-car service providers charge three people Rs50,000-Rs60,000 for travel to Shangla, so we’re unable to pay that big amount,” he said.
Mohammad Javed, another miner from Alpuri area, who is stuck in a camp on the outskirts of Quetta, said all roads were closed causing food shortage for them.
He said the lockdown was enforced suddenly suspending all kinds of traffic and therefore, miners were unable to leave for homes.
The miner complained that the rent-a-car companies charged two people Rs30,000 for travel to Peshawar. He said poor labourers were unable to pay huge charges.
“Around 3,000 coalminers from Shangla and other districts are stuck on the outskirts of Quetta,” he said.
Mohammad Tufail, another miner from Chakesar area of Shangla, who is currently in Quetta city, said majority of coalminers belong to Shangla district, which provides for more than 70 per cent of workforce digging mines across the country.
He said being daily wagers, the miners had nowhere to go due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown.
The miner asked KP Chief Minister Mahmood Khan, who also belongs to Malakand division, to come to the help of him and others in the difficult hour.
KP labour minister Shaukat Ali Yousafzai, who also belongs to Shangla district, has written letters to the chief ministers of Sindh and Balochistan seeking remedial measures and helping safe return of stranded coalminers.
“I found this opportunity to bring to your kind notice, the miserable condition of thousands of coalminers and other workers of my constituency Shangla, KP, who are stranded in various areas of Sindh including Hyderabad, Lakhra, Kashmor and various parts of Balochistan owing to lockdown in the wake of coronavirus epidemic,” the letter read.
Mr Yousafzai said that workers were constantly calling him complaining that neither the contractors were paying them their wages nor providing them with ration in these testing times.
“They are begging and crying helplessly,” he said, adding that besides they were also unable to return to their homes due to transport ban.
Mr Yousafzai asked both chief ministers to provide stranded coalminers with food, medical facilities and compensation.
He also sought strict action against employers of miners and the immediate payment of wages and early safe return of the latter to hometowns.
Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2020
WORKERS’ GROUPS DEMAND IMPLEMENTATION OF LABOUR LAWS IN CONSTRUCTION SECTOR
April 5, 2020
Welcoming the decisions of the federal government to provide a incentive package and declare construction an industry, worker rights and trade unions groups on Saturday have demanded Prime Minister Imran Khan to provide the workers of the construction sector the same facilities that the industrial workers have, including their registration under various labour laws and provision of social security facilities.
In a statement issued here on Saturday, Karamat Ali, the executive director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, Nasir Mansoor of the National Trade Unions Federation, Habibuddin Junaidi of the Peoples Labour Bureau, Liaqat Sahi of the State Bank Democratic Workers Union, Zehra Khan of the Home-Based Women Workers Federation, Farhat Perveen of the NOW Communities, Qamrul Hassan of the IUF Pakistan and others demanded that the labour laws should be mandatorily implemented in the construction industry.
They said various tax exemptions and other monetary benefits had been announced for the construction industry, which would boost the overall economy in the future. Measures should be taken to ensure that those benefits should also be transferred to the workers engaged in various sub-sectors of the construction industry, they said, adding that in the construction sector, occupational safety and health measures were not taken, which often resulted in fatal accidents.
Under the Factories Act and special law on occupation safety and health in Sindh and Punjab, the government should ensure the safety of construction workers.
Currently, workers in the construction sector are considered as informal workers and they are not included in the definition of workers in many labour laws, including the law pertaining to the registration of trade unions, i.e. Industrial Relations Act 2002. Although Sindh has included all workers in its industrial relations law (SIRA 2013), labourers are not taking benefits from that law as well, they said.
The labour unions’ leaders said that Pakistan was a signatory to various conventions under the International Labour Organisation, including the mandatory eight core labour standards, so Pakistan should make the laws accordingly and construction workers should be given the rights of association and collective bargaining.
They also said that there was no record of the construction workers with the labour department so all the workers should be registered with relevant institutions like social security institutions, Workers Welfare Fund and Employees Oldage Benefit Institution.
The minimum wages law should also be applied to the construction workers and the labour department should fix minimum wages for the skilled workers in the construction sector, they said.
NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD FROM APRIL 6TH TO APRIL 12TH
WORKERS FACING WORST CRISIS SINCE WWII: UN
By AFP Published: April 7, 2020
GENEVA: Some 1.25 billion workers are seeing their livelihoods threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Nations said on Tuesday, warning it was the “worst global crisis” since World War II.
In a fresh study, the International Labour Organisation warned that the global spread of the new coronavirus and the drastic measures taken to rein in the disease would, during the second quarter of 2020 alone, wipe out 6.7 per cent of working hours globally.
That is equivalent to 195 million full-time workers, the UN agency pointed out.
The report found that the Asia Pacific region would see the greatest loss in hours worked, with the equivalent of 125 million full-time jobs obliterated there over the next three months.
“The pandemic is having very serious consequences for the world of work,” ILO chief Guy Ryder told reporters in a virtual briefing.
“Just over four out of every five workers live in a country where partial or total lockdowns are in operation,” he pointed out, with a full 81 per cent of the global workforce of 3.3 billion people now affected.
The agency said it expected there would be “huge losses” across all different income groups, especially in upper-middle income countries.
“This far exceeds the effects of the 2008-9 financial crisis,” it said.
And it cautioned that the number of people added to the world’s unemployment rolls this year due to the pandemic was now expected to be “significantly higher” than the 25 million it projected just two weeks ago.
British PM Boris Johnson with coronavirus symptoms ‘stable’ in intensive care
That comes on top of the nearly 190 million people registered as jobless in 2019, prior to the pandemic, it said.
“During the past two weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified and expanded in terms of its global reach, with huge impacts on public health and unprecedented shocks to economies and labour markets,” the study said.
“It is the worst global crisis since the Second World War.”
ILO said that a full 1.25 billion workers were currently employed in sectors identified as being at high risk of “drastic and devastating” increases in layoffs and cuts in wage and working hours.
Many of these people “are in low-paid, low-skilled jobs, where a sudden loss of income is devastating,” it said.
At the same time, some two billion people worldwide work in the informal sector, mainly in poorer countries, and “are particularly at risk,” ILO said.
“Workers and businesses are facing catastrophe, in both developed and developing economies,” Ryder said in a statement.
“We have to move fast, decisively, and together. The right, urgent, measures, could make the difference between survival and collapse.”
Gen Qamar directs all military commanders to step up relief operations amid virus crisis
ILO called for “large-scale, integrated policy measures” to help get employers and workers through the crisis, including broad support to enterprises, employment and incomes, stimulus packages for economies and jobs, and shoring up protections for workers in the workplace.
“The choices we make today will directly affect the way this crisis unfolds and so the lives of billions of people,” Ryder said, stressing that “with the right measures we can limit its impact and the scars it leaves”.
“We must aim to build back better so that our new systems are safer, fairer and more sustainable than those that allowed this crisis to happen.”
NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD FROM APRIL 13TH TO APRIL 19TH
RS13 BILLION ALLOCATED FOR DAILY-WAGE WORKERS IN KP
The Newspaper’s Correspondent Updated April 17, 2020
MINGORA: Chief Minister Mahmood Khan has said government is taking emergency steps to control the coronavirus outbreak as well as facilitate the poor communities.
He was talking to journalists after inaugurating laboratory for coronavirus test in Saidu Group of Teaching Hospital. Federal Minister for Communication Murad Saeed, MNAs and MPAs, officials of Malakand division and Swat district were also present on the occasion.
The chief minister said that the laboratory for testing Covid-19 was established on emergency basis and now all the tests from the nine districts of Malakand division would be conducted there.
“Today, I visited and checked the activities carried out by the district administration to stop spread of coronavirus in Swat. I found all the arrangements satisfactory,” he said.
The chief minister said that apart from federal government’s initiative of Ehsaas programme, the provincial government allocated Rs13 billion for the daily wagers and poor people.
“Those, who are not included in Ehsaas programme, will get benefited from the provincial package till the month of Ramazan. About 43 per cent of population of the province will be covered in the package. About 100,000 people from the remaining poor community will be assisted from the provincial Zakat fund,” said the chief minister.
He said that imposing lockdown and ensuring social distancing were meant for public safety. “I request people to follow social distancing protocols and do not come out of their houses unnecessarily because this is the only way to be safe from coronavirus,” he said.
Speaking on the occasion, Murad Saeed appreciated the efforts of doctors, nurses, paramedics, police and journalists against Covid-19.
“For effective lockdown there is need for an effective strategy and the effective strategy is the one under which the government can successfully take care of the daily wagers and poor communities,” he said.
About the overseas Pakistanis, who were stranded abroad, the federal minister said that government issued a telephone number on which they could register themselves. “More than 40,000 overseas Pakistanis have registered themselves so far. I assure them that all of them will be brought to the country,” he added.
He also appreciated the Swat district administration, district health office and LHWs programme for taking innovative steps to stop spread of Covid-19.
The chief minister and federal minister also inaugurated Rescue 1122 station and visited Ehsas cash distribution center in Kabal tehsil besides visiting Matta hospital to see the arrangements regarding Covid-19.
Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2020
WORKERS’ BODIES CALL FOR UNIVERSAL SOCIAL SECURITY
By News Desk Published: April 18, 2020
Multiple organisations representing the working class urged the government on Friday to ensure the provision of social security to all citizens by making necessary amendments in the Constitution, particularly stressing the need to do so during the ongoing pandemic lockdown.
A statement, jointly issued by Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research executive director Karamat Ali, Habibuddin Junaidi of Peoples Labour Bureau, Nasir Mansoor of the National Trade Union Federation, State Bank Traders Workers Union secretary general Liaquat Sahi, Zehra Khan of the Home-Based Women Workers Federation, Farhat Perveen of NOW Communities and others, has called for making the provision of social security a fundamental right in the country.
They suggested including Article 38 of the Constitution, pertaining to the promotion of social and economic wellbeing of people, in Chapter Two, which elaborates on fundamental rights, of the Constitution.
According to the statement, Subsection (C) of Article 38 says that the state is responsible for providing social security, through compulsory social insurance or other means, to the working class.
It further points out that the Employees’ Old Age Benefits Act, 1976, and the Employees Social Security Act, 1965, were introduced a long time ago, to ensure the provision of social security to all registered workers, but only five per cent of them are able to avail the benefits granted under the acts due to the absence of a universal social security scheme.
Though the Sindh government had initiated the groundwork for providing universal social security to citizens, the policy was is yet to materialise, the statement reads, further stressing the need for it amid the lockdown.
“During the coronavirus pandemic, all industries and businesses are closed… across the country, resulting in economic hardships and problems for the working (class) and daily-wagers, including labourers,” it states. “While the federal and provincial governments have introduced schemes to provide ration and cash grants to them, the majority is unable to benefit from those aid programmes for various reasons.”
The statement underscores the “dire need to launch a universal social security programme for all citizens,” so as to ensure that all are protected against the consequences of emergency situations such as pandemics and lockdowns.
As per the statement, the programme is to be aimed at the provision of unemployment allowance, sickness and injury allowance and old age and disability benefits.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 18th, 2020.
WORKERS PROTEST FOR PAYMENT OF WAGES, DUES IN KARACHI
Shazia Hasan Updated April 19, 2020
KARACHI: The gloved hands held up placards carrying messages to have a heart. The voices through masks covering mouths and noses were still loud and clear. These workers, responsibly standing at proper distances from one another outside the Karachi Press Club on Saturday, just wanted the owners of factories and businesses, their employers, and also the government to pay them their pending wages and dues.
Jointly organised by the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) and Home-based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF), the demonstration was said to be necessary in these days of lockdown. “Because it is either this or starving for these poor workers with families,” Nasir Mansoor of the NTUF told Dawn.
“Instead of paying them their salaries, workers who demand their dues are being told that they are fired. They have worked for over half of March, till the 17th of the month at least, but the factories or businesses where they worked have chosen to ignore those days and not pay them a rupee for their hard work,” he added.
“The State Bank of Pakistan had offered these employers long-term loans on easy terms and low interest too, but they have turned that offer down, too, and decided to turn their backs on their poor workers,” he said.
“The government, too, has miserably failed in giving a proper strategy for the out-of-work people in this lockdown. The masses are not being provided the basic necessities of life as the government suffers from a kind of ostrich syndrome. Meanwhile, the poor have been left to either die from the coronavirus or from hunger as a large number of workers have not received any benefit from government relief,” he said.
‘The government is providing relief only to industrialists and tycoons’
“Despite the government orders to pay people their wages, the factory owners have done nothing of the sort and the government and its labour department has also not taken them to task for it. Some employers have even closed down their mills,” he said, adding that it was also shameful that an atomic power such as Pakistan could not provide wages as well as the necessary protective gear to workers.
“The healthcare workers are risking their lives by working in unsafe conditions and the government is ignoring the healthcare system,” he added.
Zehra Khan of the HBWWF said that they had to convince the workers to hold a demonstration outside the KPC so that their suffering could be highlighted in the media. Otherwise, they wanted to besiege the offices and homes of their employers. “There is a large number of workers here who are daily-wage earners and have become out of work too like the other millions of workers facing great agony due to non-payment of their wages,” she said.
“When the working class needs urgent relief, the government is providing relief only to industrialists and tycoons. On one hand, the capitalists are getting facilities from the government and on the other they are rendering their labour jobless while refusing to pay them their wages,” she said.
Ms Khan also pointed out that instead of waiving off the loans of poor nations, the international lending institutions are only talking about deferring these loans for short periods. “Instead of saving poor people from the virus, these institutions are giving more loans to governments to facilitate capitalists and industrialists, which would result in dire consequences for the working class in future,” she said.
“The multinational companies and international textile brands and the garment sector of Pakistan have failed to discharge their due responsibilities. Due to the worsening global economic crisis, orders given to many countries, including Pakistan, are being cancelled, creating a threat of unemployment of at least two million textile and garment workers. There is a need for forging unity amongst the workers to face these grave challenges,” she said.
Saeeda Khatoon, of Ali Enterprises Factory Fire Affectees Association, also said that the wages of workers should be paid promptly and their sacking should be stopped during the lockdown. “Those not following these SOPs should be arrested and heavy fines recovered from them,” she said.
It was also suggested by the protesters that Pakistan should announce default of the foreign loans and this money should be spent on the welfare of the poor. All non-developmental expenses, including defence expenses, should be curtailed by 50 per cent, and the saved funds should be spent on healthcare while all citizens should be given universal social security cover.
The international brands that have earned billions from this country should stop cancelling their orders and establish funds for emergency relief of workers in different countries. All education and healthcare institutions should be nationalised and five per cent of the GDP should be tagged for healthcare.
Other suggestions included the government’s need to come up with a strategy to give rations of three months or equivalent money during this lockdown to all workers and that the trade unions and their representatives should be given proper representation in federal and provincial relief committees so that relief goods can be distributed among the really needy families with transparency.
Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2020
NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD FROM APRIL 20TH TO APRIL 26TH
ECC APPROVES DISBURSEMENT OF RS75BN AMONG LABOURERS
Khaleeq Kiani April 23, 2020
ISLAMABAD: The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet on Wednesday approved disbursement of Rs75 billion out of the prime minister’s relief package of Rs200bn as targeted payments to low-income groups, especially labourers and daily wage earners who have been severely affected by the coronavirus-related lockdown in the country.
A meeting of the ECC, presided over by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, also approved about Rs13bn for settlement of outstanding liabilities of about 850 litigants of the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM).
The ECC decided that disbursement of Rs12,000 per person would be made using the Ehsaas disbursement mechanism under the “MazdoorKaEhsaasProgramme”. For this purpose, a fourth category, in addition to the existing three categories under “EhsaasKifalat” would be created and standard filters/checks of the Ehsaasprogramme would be applied for identification of beneficiaries.
The meeting was informed that after application of the usual filters and checks, up to six million low-income people were expected to benefit under the fourth category, in addition to the 12m labourers already targeted through three categories of EhsaasKifalat. As such, the total number of people receiving financial support through the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) will reach 18m.
Okays Rs13bn for settlement of outstanding liabilities of PSM litigants
“MazdoorKaEhsaasProgramme” is aimed at extending financial support to low-income labourers and daily wage earners such as loaders, cleaning staff, contract employees, piece rate workers, self-employed street vendors, construction workers, painters, welders, mechanics, carpenters, domestic help and drivers.
The ECC asked the Ministry of Industries and Production and the Poverty Alleviation and Social Sector Development Division to jointly work out a comprehensive mechanism and modalities to ensure a transparent and efficient disbursement of the support package among the deserving people.
The ECC also approved release of a government loan of Rs1.3bn during the current financial year and Rs3.85bn per annum over the next three years for settlement of outstanding liabilities of the litigants in a case involving the PSM.
On a proposal by the Ministry of Commerce, the ECC approved notification of the Export Policy Order, 2020 and Import Policy Order, 2020 in a consolidated form as per the Law Division’s recommendations for the convenience of the business community.
The meeting approved in principle a proposal by the Ministry of National Health Services for provision of Rs150 million as grant in aid/seed money for the Islamabad Healthcare Regulatory Authority. The ECC asked the secretaries of finance and health to jointly work out modalities for arrangement of the fund.
The ECC considered a matter raised by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs regarding arrest of PNSC ships in South Africa on account of alleged claims of M/s Coniston against the PSM and asked the finance secretary to engage with the Pakistan National Shipping Corporation and PSM and seek opinion from the Law Division, if necessary, to resolve the issue having ended up in litigation.
On a proposal by the Ministry of Climate Change, the ECC approved exemption from the government’s re-lending policy in respect of a $188m World Bank concessional loan for the Pakistan Hydro-Met and Ecosystem Restoration Services Project.
The ECC approved a technical supplementary grant of Rs606m for 19 projects to be implemented by the Balochistan government in FY2019-20 and Rs7m for purchase of spare parts for maintenance of a helicopter by the Frontier Corps Balochistan (North).
The meeting approved the budget proposal of the Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution for the year 2019-20 and the revised budget estimate for 2018-19.
On a proposal by the Ministry of Industries and Production seeking a supplementary grant of Rs288m for payment of salaries to the employees of Pakistan Machine Tool Factory, the ECC asked the Finance Division and the Industries and Production Division to sit together and resolve the issue.
Published in Dawn, April 23rd, 2020
NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD FROM APRIL 27TH TO MAY 3RD
TRADE UNION LEADERS DEMAND UNEMPLOYMENT ALLOWANCE FOR WORKERS
Shazia Hasan Updated April 27, 2020
KARACHI: The problems faced by workers due to the coronavirus lockdown, including not getting their rightful wages and even getting laid off, forced several labour leaders and trade unionists to come out and talk about these issues at a press conference called at the Karachi Press Club on Sunday.
They demanded the provision of unemployment allowance for the workers under a universal social security system just like the one available in other countries. They also observed that all the benefits being offered by the government were being extended to businesses and the industry while the employees had been ignored.
“Our workers don’t have the safeguards, which they had been promised by the Sindh government ahead of the lockdown. They had been promised that they would keep getting their salaries and that none of them would lose their job, which the government has failed to ensure,” said Karamat Ali, executive director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research. He added that there were some 40 million workers in Sindh of whom only five per cent were registered with social security institutions such as the Employees Old Age Benefit Institution.
He said that as per Article 29 of the Constitution of Pakistan, the country’s president is bound to present the report on implementation of the Principles of Policy of the Articles of 37 and 38 pertaining to the provision of social security to all citizens during his annual address before parliament. “A few days back, when I spoke to President Dr Arif Alvi I inquired why he had not presented such a report during the two years he had been the president, he was not even aware of this constitutional requirement,” he said.
He also said that they would ask economists to prepare a blueprint of the implementation of the Principles of Policy, which would then be presented to the president for consideration if the government could not do it.
‘They are the front-line soldiers during this pandemic; many of them have not been given proper PPE’
Habibuddin Junaidi of the Peoples Labour Bureau also expressed serious concerns on the non-implementation of the Sindh government’s order asking the industries and companies not to lay off their workers during the lockdown and make full payment of their salaries. “We have come to know that many industries, including public sector factories such as the Pakistan Machine Tool Factory, have not paid salaries to their workers,” he said.
A number of banks have closed many of their branches during the lockdown and their employees are suffering. The government and the State Bank of Pakistan have provided incentives to the employers and owners of the industries, but what about the people who work for them? We call upon the SBP to ensure that companies which are availing the soft-term loans under special schemes providing incentives to their workers,” he added.
Nasir Mansoor of the National Trade Union Federation said that the Sindh government had tried to provide legal coverage for its notification through an ordinance, but it was not signed by the governor of Sindh. “And the provincial government is not pushing for it. He demanded that the ordinance be issued or there should be legislation through the Sindh Assembly.”
Farhat Parveen of the National Organisation of Working Communities pointed towards the plight of doctors and other health workers. “They are the front-line soldiers during this pandemic, who have to work no matter what the conditions and many of them have not even been provided with proper personal protective equipment,” she said.
Zehra Khan of the Home-based Women Workers Federation demanded that the health and education budget be at par with the defence budget. “We also don’t want the taxes we pay to be used for repaying Pakistan’s loans. We want our tax money to be spent on human resource development,” she said.
Liaqat Sahi of the Democratic Workers Union of State Bank of Pakistan said that there was no record of outsourced workers. “When you don’t even know the exact number of workers because there are so many who are third party workers and contractual workers, how are you going to help them?” he said.
Published in Dawn, April 27th, 2020
NEARLY HALF OF GLOBAL WORKFORCE MAY LOSE LIVELIHOOD, CAUTIONS ILO
Reuters Updated April 30, 2020
GENEVA: Some 1.6 billion workers in the informal economy, representing nearly half of the global labour force, are in immediate danger of losing their livelihoods due to the coronavirus pandemic, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) said on Wednesday.
The UN agency’s latest report sharply raised its forecast for the devastating impact on jobs and incomes of the Covid-19 disease, which has infected more than 3.1 million people globally, killed nearly 220,000 and shut down economies.
“It shows I think in the starkest possible terms that the jobs employment crisis and all of its consequences is deepening by comparison with our estimates of three weeks ago,” ILO Director-General Guy Ryder told a briefing, foreseeing a “massive” poverty impact.
Already, wages of the world’s two billion informal workers plunged by an estimated global average of 60 per cent in the first month that the crisis unfolded in each region, the ILO said.
Informal workers are the most vulnerable of the 3.3bn global workforce, lacking welfare protection, access to good healthcare, or the means to work from home, it stressed.
“For millions of workers, no income means no food, no security and no future. Millions of businesses around the world are barely breathing,” said Ryder.
“They have no savings or access to credit. These are the real faces of the world of work. If we don’t help them now, they will simply perish.”
The ILO said prolonged lockdowns and office and plant closures are now expected to lead to an “even” worse fall in total working hours worldwide in the second quarter than what was forecast just three weeks ago.
Worst-hit sectors are manufacturing, accommodation and food services, wholesale and retail trade, and real estate and business activities.
Total working hours in the second quarter are expected to be 10.5 per cent lower, equivalent to 305 million full-time jobs, than the last pre-crisis quarter, the ILO said, with biggest declines forecast for the Americas, Europe and Central Asia.
The previous ILO estimate on April 7 was that disruptions would wipe out labour equivalent to the effort of 195 million workers, or 6.7pc of hours clocked worldwide.
About 436m enterprises — businesses or self-employed — face “high risks” of disruption, the agency added.
The long-term panorama was unclear. “The eventual increase in global unemployment over 2020 will depend substantially on how the world economy fares in the second half of the year and how effectively policy measures will preserve existing jobs and boost labour demand once the recovery phase begins,” it said.
Published in Dawn, April 30th, 2020
ACTIVISTS DEMAND RIGHTS FOR WORKING CLASS
The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter May 02, 2020
LAHORE: Trade union leaders, rights activists and workers have demanded socioeconomic rights for the working class in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic.
At a webinar on Covid-19 and Protection of Health and Jobs of Workers held to mark the International Workers Day, rights activist Hina Jilani lamented that right to health as well as others socioeconomic rights had not been made a part of the fundamental rights of the citizens in the Constitution.
The event was organised by the Progressive Labour Federation, in collaboration with the Labour Education Foundation, Progressive Students Collective and Haqooq-i-Khalq Movement (HKM). Khalid Malik moderated it.
Ms Jilani demanded including these socioeconomic rights into the Constitution’s chapter dealing with fundamental rights and extending social security cover not only to industrial labourers but also workers in informal sector and farms.
She regretted that the citizens were being given their economic right as a charity (a reference to the government’s Ehsaas programme), hurting their dignity. She said had there been strong local governments equipped with resources, there would have been visible difference in handling the crisis.
The HKM’s Ammar Ali Jan said the pandemic had brought the workers to the point of fight for survival. He said the incumbent exploitative system was successfully using the workers against workers by dividing them. He called for assembling the workers on a single platform for waging a struggle for rights so that there’s no daily-wager and/or contractual employee and every workers was employed as regular enjoying all legal rights.
Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee’s Farooq Tariq demanded that the health system should be free at all levels and all the time and raising allocations for the sector up to 10pc of the budget.
He said the capitalist governments across the world were allocating taxpayers’ money to bail out big businesses and offering peanuts to the deserving poor.
He was also critical of religious take on the pandemic, saying it was aimed at diverting public attention from ineptness of the government.
Psychologist Prof Maqbool Babri suggested introducing unified health and education systems in the country by making all those drawing their salaries from tax-payers’ money to be treated in case of ailment only at state-run health facilities and educating their children at state-run schools.
Pakistan Workers Confederation leader Khurshid Ahmed regretted that at retirement the workers were denied medical facility when they needed more healthcare.
Representing transgender persons, Zanaya Chaudhry bemoaned that at a time when events had been banned, her community has been left with the Hobson’s choice of begging on roads but law enforcers were barring them in the wake of coronavirus without offering them any alternative. She said those employed at some businesses were facing the worst sexual harassment.
Manzoor Cheema from the US, Mushtaq Lasharie from London, Aslam Meraj from Faisalabad, Tajmeena from Charsadda and other people from across the country also participated.
Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2020
‘INTERNATIONAL LABOUR DAY’ MARKED
By RECORDER REPORT on May 2, 2020
On the ‘International Labour Day,’ Hari Welfare Association (HWA) lamented that across rural areas of Sindh, workers in agriculture, farms, and brick kilns, who are in millions, hardly earn Rs 6000 per month against Rs 17,500 minimum wage promised by the Sindh government for unskilled workers in 2019.
HWA grieved that young people without employment, education and skill improvement opportunities are compelled to work around fourteen to sixteen hours at grocery shops, restaurants, and workshops just for Rs5000 per month in rural parts of Sindh. Of these workers, women and children are at the lowest ebb to receive the wages.
To mark the ‘International Labour Day,’ a meeting was held at the head office of Hari Welfare Association attended by HWA president Akram Khaskheli, labour activists Hussain Bux Chutto Manzoor Laghari Peasant and others.
The meeting participants demanded the government to take notice against violation of labour rights and ensure the implementation of labour laws across the Sindh.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2020
LABOURERS STILL STRUGGLING FOR RIGHTS, SAYS MAYOR
By RECORDER REPORT on May 2, 2020
Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar Friday paid tribute to labourers on the ‘International Labour Day’ and said this reminds us the struggle of labourers.
In his message on International Labour Day, Akhtar said labourers are still struggling for their rights. He said daily wagers are facing hardships to feed their families during Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown. “Billions of labourers rendered jobless due to lockdown across the world,” he added.
The Mayor said prosperity of country lies in prosperity of labourers, adding that the day teaches to protect rights of the labourers.
“Our religion Islam guarantees labourers’ rights,” he said and demanded of the government to take effective measures for betterment of the labourers. He was of the view that provision of ration and essential commodities to labourers who went jobless after the lockdown is the need of the hour. Khidmat-e-Khalq Foundation has provided ration to 150,000 labourers so far,” he added.
Akhtar said current situation demands the government to provide helping hand to the needy people including labourers. He said 81 percent labourers in Pakistan neither registered in any organisation nor they can claim their rights.
“The labourers have achieved some of their rights in a struggle span over 100 years but there are a lot of rights still to get,” he said. He was of the view that lockdown and pandemic have added miseries of lower class people.
He also asked labourers to raise voice for their rights so that poverty and joblessness could be eradicated.
The Mayor urged that Labor Day should be observed with woe to expedite measures for betterment of the labourers and stop exploiting them so that they could play their role as respectable citizens.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2020
HOME-BASED WOMEN WORKERS WORST HIT BY CRISIS
By Razzak Abro Published: May 2, 2020
KARACHI: The imposition of a lockdown in Sindh to contain the spread of Covid-19 has adversely affected hundreds of businesses, while many people have also been forced out of jobs. It’s not just shops and companies that have suffered the consequences of the lockdown – home-based women workers too also been facing severe financial constraints.
A recent survey conducted by The Express Tribune revealed that most home-based women workers do not enjoy financial support from their spouses, either because the men in their families have passed away or are disabled. Meanwhile, others come from families where both the husband and the wife work as daily-wage earners to make ends meet.
“I ran out of food in the second week of April because of which I had to borrow money from a middleman to feed my children,” said Ghazala, a resident of New Karachi. A widow and mother of three children, she supports her family by doing embroidery work on bridal outfits from home.
“Many women in my area do similar home-based jobs. We work with some contractors who provide us with fabrics and the required embellishments,” she explained. “Intricate embroidery work on bridal outfits is very time-consuming and it normally takes two to three days to complete a single outfit. However, we only earn Rs500 to Rs700 per outfit.”
In another massive jump, 622 new Covid-19 cases emerge in Sindh
Ghazala added that she has been out work since the closure of shops and other businesses due to the lockdown. “I had some savings so I managed my kitchen expenses in the first week of April. However, I ran out of food and cash in the second week,” she lamented.
She claimed that no welfare organisation or person had distributed rations in her area. As a result, she had to ask her contractor to lend her some money. “I have seen on TV how these welfare organisations are distributing rations daily, but I never saw any help coming to my area.”
Home-based women workers in Hyderabad are also undergoing a similar situation, with most of them attached to the bangles-manufacturing industry. Contractors from different factories provide them with bangles at home for colouring and other work.
Shakeela Khan, a social worker from Hyderabad who is affiliated with the Home-Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF), said that most of these bangle workers have been facing financial hardships due to the suspension of business activities.
According to her, women workers connected to the bangle-making industry of Hyderabad are already paid a meagre amount for their work.
“A woman could earn Rs3,000 per month in normal days but the lockdown has deprived them of even that,” she said. “The husbands of most of these women workers are also daily-wage earners, so you can imagine what their situation would be like at the moment.”
According to Zehra Khan, the HBWWF provincial general secretary, the prevailing lockdown has highlighted the need for social security laws more than ever before, especially for home-based women workers.
She said that home-based workers are not formally considered part of the workforce, therefore, they do not have access to social security, pension, or any other benefits under Pakistani law.
“Around 80 per cent of workers represent the informal labour sector in our country. They are either self-employed or attached with some informal industry,” she said. “The majority of them are women who work from home. The government should do something to help these women out.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 2nd, 2020.
‘RURAL WORKERS PAID A THIRD OF MINIMUM WAGE’
By News Desk Published: May 2, 2020
The Hari Welfare Association (HWA) has underlined the need to ensure the provision of at least the minimum wage set by the government to all workers, particularly in a crisis as at present.
In a statement issued on Thursday, in relevance to Labour Day falling today (Friday), the organisation, which works for the welfare of marginalised workers in Sindh’s remote areas, highlighted that agricultural workers as well as those working in brick kilns in rural areas were being paid significantly less than the minimum wage.Numbering in the millions, they receive just Rs6,000 against the minimum wage of Rs17,500 as set by the Sindh government for unskilled workers in 2019, the statement said. “Young people, without employment, education and skill improvement opportunities, work for 14 to 16 hours at grocery shops, restaurants and workshops, in rural areas, just for Rs5,000 per month.”
Even then, low wages and financial exploitation are just one aspect of their struggle without any social security and protection, the statement pointed out. According to the HWA, the dilemma is increased manifold in the aftermath of extreme situations, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, driving many workers to commit suicide.
The HWA also attributed the deplorable living condition of workers in rural areas to the government’s lack of will to devise and enforce mechanisms for ensuring the implementation of labour rights, laws and policies.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 2nd, 2020.