AS Labour Day was observed on Saturday, President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan in their separate messages reiterated government’s commitment to improve working and living conditions of workers and extend housing, education and health facilities to them and their families.
Such statements appear to be customary as they are repeated every year on the occasion of Labour Day.
However, one cannot doubt intentions of the PTI leadership, as there is hardly any speech in which Prime Minister Imran Khan does not speak about plight of daily wagers and labourers.
This is PM’s empathy for marginalised segments of the society that distinguishes him from past rulers. One has expectations that he will do the needful to save working class from exploitation that exists not only in private but also public sector organisations.
For instance, in public sector departments, permanent employees enjoy all the perks and privileges including that of pay raise and medical benefits yet these are denied to contractual staff. Even some departments have not implemented the minimum wage.
While in private sector especially small factories and industries, workers are faced with deplorable condition.
They have no job security and have to work for long hours without any additional benefits.
The women especially at such places experience physical as well as verbal abuse, sometimes of sexual nature.
Many smaller factories sometimes employ children, including as young as 13, to avoid paying minimum wage and overtime.
The primary responsibility for protecting rights of workers rests with the government.
These workers and labourers are the back of any economy and they deserve better working environment.
Labour departments in each of the four provinces are tasked with enforcing laws to monitor working conditions and have powers to initiate enforcement action. But to date, this labour inspection mechanism has been wholly ineffectual.
We, therefore, will suggest that reforms are brought in the labour departments, envisaging clear procedures for independent and credible inspections. Laws should be further strengthened to protect due rights of workers.
Child labour should be eliminated from every sphere and those employing children or exploiting labour should strictly be dealt with. As for government departments, the adhocism must be brought to an end.
Recruitment must be made on permanent basis and employees be given good salary packages keeping in view the inflationary trends so that they could perform to the best of their capabilities.