KARACHI: Several labour leaders noted on Thursday that it was heartening that yet another elected government in Pakistan completed its tenure but political parties ruling the centre and provinces in the last five years did not take any step to bring a visible improvement in the lives of workers.They were speaking at a press conference at the Karachi Press Club (KPC) during which they expressed their reservations regarding the priorities of political parties on labour-related issues. According to National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) Central Deputy General Secretary Nasir Manzoor , the priorities of political parties on labour centric issues were still unclear even though elections were on the horizon. He added that political parties were demanding vote from the workers despite the fact that there was nothing in their election manifestoes for the betterment of workers.Nasir Manzoor said that there was a labour force of more than 65 million in the country and the labour force alone made up almost 65 percent of the country’s vote. Manzoor added that in this situation it was worth seeing how the political parties thought and behaved on problems and issues related to workers. He stated that the country was facing a worsening economic crisis and the upcoming elections were of utmost importance for the workers. He said that the workers wished to present their point of view to the political parties.Nasir Mansoor said that, in this regard, the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF), Home-based Women Workers Federation (BHWWF), Inqilabi Adarsh Front (IAF) and the representatives of more than 60 other trade unions had decided to organize a Labours’ Right Movement (Mazdoor Huqooq Tahreek) and start gatherings in the localities and colonies of labours and later extend them to the other parts of the city. Mansoor expressed the hope that the Labours’ Rights Movement (LRM) would compel the political parties and their candidates to chalk out their policies related to workers and include them in their election campaign. He said that LRM was an attempt to highligh the issues of labourers, peasants and working women and safeguard their legal rights.During the press conference, Mansoor informed the media that almost 80 percent of the Karachi comprised of localities of workers which were deprived of the very basic facilities of life. He said that the working class was waiting for their constitutional rights of housing, education, healthcare and employment. According to Nasir, the labour colonies and localities did not have the basic facilities of water, electricity, gas, healthcare, education, public transport, drainage, paved roads and streets.He added that schools and hospitals were either altogether absent in the labour colonies or in a poor condition. Nasir said that the labour colonies depicted the picture of the sixteenth century. Nasir told the media that the state of workplaces, factories and industries was even worse. He said that every day millions of workers toiled in the death traps called industrial zones to create more wealth for the capitalists.Nasir said that the plight of workers was made worse by serious industrial mishaps like the Baldia Factory fire, Gadani ship breaking yard fires and caving in of mines.During the press conference, the speakers said that the capitalists had made workers their wage-slaves. They said that unskilled workers were not given government-fixed minimum wages of Rs15000 per month.Labour leaders said that the legal working time of eight hours a day was being extended to 14 to 18 hours a day and female workers were being subjected to the worst form of exploitation.Human rights Activist Qirat Mirza said that female workers did not get equal wages and sexual harassment was rampant at their workplaces.Other speakers said that workers were being forced to work for more than eight hours a day and no compensation was being paid to them. They said that many factories were not giving their workers paid weekly holidays. Shedding light on the condition of the workers, the labour leaders mentioned that the workers despite serving for years in factories were not accepted as legal employees. They said that workers could be sacked any time and factory owners banned their entry at the factory gate.Criticizing the contract labour system, the labour leaders said that it had become a cancer in whole industrial sector. They said that social security, which was the basic right of workers, was not being given to them.Nasir Mansoor said that for majority of workers pension was still a distant dream and they were not given their legal right of five percent shares from the annual shares either. He added that many workers were deprived of their right of making trade unions and electing Collective Bargaining Agents (CBAs).He said that there was rampant lawlessness in factories and workplaces and the industrialists were hiring retired officers of law enforcing agencies as security officers of their factories to harass their workers.According to the labour leaders, the administration, police and rangers sided with the industrialists and showed anti-worker behavior in the case of a conflict or an industrial dispute. They said that the workers who raised voice for their rights were harassed and many of them were sent to jail.The speakers informed the media that cases under the anti-terrorist laws were lodged against the workers who struggled for labour rights. They claimed that institutions made for safeguarding the rights of workers like Labour Department, labour courts, National Industrial Relations Commission (NIRC) were safeguarding the interests of factory owners instead of helping the workers out. They added that bribery was ripe in these institutions and the rights of workers were being infringed on.The leaders said that that the working class should start their own organized movement for safeguard their rights and resolve their collective issues. They added it was the duty of the working class to cast vote to only those candidates who made workers a part of their election campaign and acknowledged their problems.The speakers demanded the provision of basic facilities of life like water, electricity and gas in workers’ localities. They said that roads and streets should be built and proper drainage and sanitation facilities should be provided in labour coloniesThey also demanded to set up schools, public parks, playgrounds, dispensaries and hospitals in the labour colonies.The speakers said that there was a need to set up more public universities, medical and engineering colleges in the megacity. They added that there was a need to revive the Karachi Transport Corporation (KTC) so a modern public transportation system could be introduced for the workers.The labour leaders also demanded that the marine forests should be saved from the land mafia. They said that the protection of environment-friendly trees should be ensured and new tree plantation should be carried out in the megacity, especially in its industrial areas.The speakers said that minimum wages of Rs15000 per month for unskilled labour should be ensured. They also demanded that the workers wages be paid through banks. The labour leaders further said that eight hours a day duty should be ensured and for more work a double overtime should be given to the workers. They also demanded that the weekly paid holidays of workers be implemented.The speakers said that every worker including home-based workers and workers of unorganized sector should be registered with the social security and pension institutions and they should be issued proper cards. They also added that five percent of annual profits of the organizations should be distributed amongst the workers.Demanding the elimination of illegal contract system, the labour leaders said that all workers should be issued written appointment orders. The speakers said that solid steps needed to be taken to ensure safety of lives of workers at their workplaces and discrimination against female workers and their harassment at workplace should be ended.The speakers said that female workers should be given wages equal to male workers and privatization of public entities should be stopped.They said that constitutional right of workers to make trade unions should be accepted and their collective bargaining agent (CBA) system should be ensured.During the press conference, the speakers said that representation should be given to labour in assemblies as per their population percentage. They demanded the construction of modern labour colonies near all industrial areas and asked for the implementation of of SIRA 2013 for the workers of agriculture and fisheries sector.They said that SIRA’s modalities should be designed and it should be introduced in other provinces. The speakers said, all other province should accept home based workers as formal workers just like Sindh did.NTUF General Secretary Nasir Mansoor, Ghani Zaman, Saira Feroze of Home-based Women Workers Federation, Saeeda Khatoon, president NTUF Sindh chapter Gul Rehman, human rights activist Qiraat Mirza, Information Secretary Sindh Agricultural General Workers Union CBA Mushtaq Ali Shan, Basit Jagirani from Textile & Garment General Workers Union, Shahjee Rehman General Secretary All Rerolling Mills General Workers Union & Riaz Abbasi of the NTUF were addressing a press conference at the Karachi Press Club (KPC).Published in Daily Times, June 22nd 2018.