The International Labour Day-2018 was observed on Tuesday across the globe including Pakistan under the theme “Celebrating the international labour movement”. Labor unions throughout Pakistan organize seminars, rallies and parades where union leaders deliver speeches emphasizing the history of Labor Day and its importance. Workers and unions arrange street processions, and this portrays solidarity with workers around the world. Celebrating this day aims at paying tribute to sacrifices of workers in achieving economic and social rights all over the world. Pakistan’s first labor policy was devised in 1972, in which May 1 was declared an official public holiday.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, in his message on the Labour Day, reiterated to protect the rights of workers, saying the government believed that only a healthy, happy, well-educated and well-paid workforce could enable Pakistan to attain its full social and economic potential. He said the federal government was fully committed to taking all measures, in cooperation with the provincial governments, to ensure the welfare of workers and their families as well as to raise their standards of living.
But such claims seem so hollow considering the state of labourers in the country. Statements of politicians to change the fate of working class seem mere rhetoric. It is high time that policy makers should do some serious effort in uplifting living standards of labourer, at the moment they are busy only in lip service. With the passage of time importance of the day has become like an annual ritual; rallies, conferences are staged and conferences held to mark the day. But the next day everything becomes normal, it is back to the same old routine. Nothing substantial has been done to empower the worker class, labor laws exist in our country but not the implementation.
Laborers are often deprived of even minimum basic pay and minimum health cover. They do not get enough wages to provide their children with basic school education. Laborers are still forced to work in extremely unfriendly and unhygienic environment, putting their health at risk. Daily wagers and particularly those who serve as domestic help are still outside the labor laws. In such a scenario, workers have no job security, no medical coverage, no pension or provident fund, no limit on working hours and are paid no overtime. Dilemma of child labor still grips the society.
Policy makers have miserably failed in implementation of existing labour laws in the country.