Labour Day, is celebrated on first of May to commemorate the workers’ movement for demanding justice and equality of rights from oppressive forces and also to remember unprecedented sacrifices rendered by laborers for their rights.
This day is also observed to vow to continue struggling against all oppressive forces including the rulers who support them. According to Lenin, this historical day symbolizes unity, equality, friendship and freedom. We, the Pakistani workers are observing May Day at a time when lawlessness, unemployment, inflation and load shedding have made people’s lives unbearable. The workers are facing extreme hardships due to industrial backwardness. There is a declining consideration for workers’ amenities and the capitalistic system is present in its ugliest form even in developed countries where there is nobody to challenge their oppression. The government of Pakistan is also following the same policies as the rulers are implementing the international oppressive policies especially those of the US to extend their rule. Fifty-three percent of the total population of Pakistan is living below the poverty line and their lives can be described as inhumane at best. The conditions that these people are living in are worst than those of Chicago workers of 1886.
The rulers, meanwhile, are enjoying luxurious lives at the expense of the labourers’ poverty-filled misery. The rulers have amended labour laws, increasing working hours from 8 to 12 hours a day. The labourers have been denied their basic right to form trade unions. According to government figures, there are 2.2 million organized workers both in the public and private sectors of Pakistan, which makes up only 14 percent of the 160 million of the country. The remaining 86 percent of the population is dependent on casual work, which forces 85.5 percent of Pakistani women to take up paid labour. There are no labour laws to protect their rights both in the organised and unorganised sectors. These people are not provided any facilities under labour laws. They have to work in small factories and industrialist units on contract and sub-contract basis. Unfortunately, they are not given a formal appointment letter and are not even paid the minimum wages at Rs 6,000 per month. The government has approved and signed 35 conventions of the International Labour Organisation without any implementation.
The female labourers have to suffer from sexual harassment at work on top of working 12-hour shifts everyday. Similarly, the working conditions of women employed at brick kilns and in agricultural fields are very poor. Thousands of women are employed in the textile industry without any recognition for their labour. There is no reliable data available on the number of female workers in Pakistan. It is recommended that women should also be employed under the West Pakistan Maternity Fitness Ordinance 1958 and West Pakistan Maternity Fitness Ordinance Rules 1961. Under section 45(b) of the Factories Act 1934, the employers are not allowed to make women work after 7pm in the evening. But under the amended labour laws, women are required to work up to 10pm in the night. There are no rules for women working in the agriculture sector, the domestic sphere and at kilns. Sadly, international labour organisations are not playing any role to include women in trade union activities. The trade union movement has therefore lost its importance. The government has not formed and implemented any policies for female workers owing to a lack of data on the issue. The feudal system still exists in the rural areas of the country and continues oppressing the poor people of Pakistan. The feudal lords continue to exploit poor farmers as no land reforms have been introduced by the government to address the issue. The laborers are being exploited for the last 63 years. An insignificant number of women are registered with the trade unions who fail to understand the problems of working women subjected to violence.