December 1, 2015

Lack of policy results in exploitation of 12 million home-based workers

More than 12 million home-based workers of Pakistan have been braving brutal exploitation as the government is shying away from announcing a proper policy form them, said speakers of an All Pakistan Home-based Workers Convention held at the Sindh Boy Scouts Auditorium here on Sunday.

The national gathering, with representation from all over the country, organized by the Home Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) was presided over by HBWWF General Secretary Zahra Khan with Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani as the Chief Guest.

The speakers said more than 60 million laborers of Pakistan are deprived of their rights given to them by labor laws. Though the production process has been increasing continuously, it has brought no betterment in the lives of workers. Only the owners of the means of production are becoming richer and richer. The federal and provincial governments have failed to implement the labor laws. It is not amongst their priorities to make pro-worker amendments in the labor laws that are overdue because of the prevailing situation.

They said that the crisis of capitalism has pushed all sectors of economy, especially the production sector from the formal to the informal labor sector. The basic reason of it is to get more profit and to compete in market through cheap labor. Women and child labor is being used as the fuel of this furnace of profit. Like the whole world in Pakistan also more than 70 percent of economy is non-formal and in it the home-based women workers are its most important but most cheap component.

More than 80 percent of the home-based workers are women workers. They work from the sports industry to textile and garments, from glass bangle to leather and footwear industry. However, on the government level these women workers are not legally recognized as workers. These hundreds of thousands of women workers toil for 12 to 13 hours a day along with their children but they get very low wages of 3 to 6 thousand rupees per month. In this 21st century they are deprived from the facility of weekly holiday.

These women workers are entangled in the clutches of contract labor system and they even do not know who their real employer is. They are the only component of the production process in which the women workers use their own home factory. They use their own electricity, gas, water and other amenities for work and pay their bill. In other words, these workers arrange these facilities themselves that should be provided by the capitalists; however, these women workers get half the wages that are paid to the labors working in factories.

The representatives of the home-based workers said that the ILO had approved the home-based work Convention 177 in 1996. It was about bringing the home-based workers in the ambit [scope] of law, providing them social security, equal wages for equal work, and giving them the right to form labor unions and collective bargaining agents. However, the government of Pakistan was avoiding ratifying it despite continuous demands of labor and trade unions.

The draft of the home-based labor policy made jointly after tripartite consultation has been gathering dust on the table of the chief minister and awaiting the approval of the Sindh cabinet. However, the government is not approving it despite its promises.

The speakers warned that if the government of Sindh failed to immediately announce the home-based workers' policy thousands of women workers would besiege the Sindh assembly when it is in session.

In this grim background the home-based women workers started a great and revolutionary struggle and not only joined the labor movement but also made their trade unions and a nation-wide Home Based Women Workers Federation.

These unions and the federation are the first labor unions and federation in the history of Pakistan, whose members and office-bearers are all women, themselves. They are getting organized in every nook and corner of the country. These women workers consider them as a part of the local and international labor movements and struggling for their due rights. Today this convention is attended by the women workers from Sindh, Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa who represent thousands of home-based women workers of their respective areas.

In addition, the Home-Based Women Workers Federation was also elected its Provincial Committees/bodies in the convention. The Solidarity messages from IG Metal, IF Metal, Teachers Trade Union and other organizations working on informal workers were also readout in the convention.

The convention through resolutions demanded that the government should ratify the ILO Homework Convention 177 and include in the local laws.

- The governments of Sindh and Punjab should announce provincial policies for home-based workers and also implement them.
- The home-based workers should be accepted as worker as per law and given legal cover, as well as, the right of collective bargaining.
- Home-based workers should also be given the social security benefits as State level as being enjoyed by the workers of organized labor sector.
- The definition of worker should be reformulated as per the prevailing conditions, i.e., according to the production process.
- The work of home-based workers should be highlighted and counted in the surveys and statistics of government.
- Home-based workers should be included in consultation related to every stage of lawmaking.
- Contractors and middlemen related to the home-based workers should be registered.
- The wages of home-based workers should be increased. The government should announce wage board immediately to determine wages of different trades of home-based workers.

Those who spoke included Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani, HBWWF general secretary Zahra Khan, Saira Feroze and Sajida Kausar, National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) President Rafiq Baloch, deputy general secretary Nasir Mansoor, Faisal Edhi of Edhi Foundation, Ashraf Ali Naqvi from the labor department, Ume Liala form Homenet Pakistan, Zubeda Awan from Multan, Sughra Khatoon, Home-based Women Bangle Workers Union's Shakeela Khan and Jameela Abdul Latif.

Issued by:
Zehra Khan
General Secretary
Home Based Women Workers Federation
Ph: 0300-3770755