Govt asked to apply labor laws on home-based workers, ratify ILO Work Convention 177

MULTAN: More than 16 million home-based women workers are contributing greatly to the national economy, and the government should accept them as ‘workers’ as per labor laws and also ratify the ILO Work Convention 177 without further loss of tome, asked the speakers of a convention of Home-based Women Workers Federation on the occasion of the South Asia Home Work Day, here on Tuesday.

They asked the government to give the home-based workers the facilities of social security, old age benefit, right to make labor unions and elect collective bargaining agents and all other rights as per the constitution of Pakistan and the labor laws. They said the government should ensure the access of home-based women workers to their genuine rights by ratifying the ILO Work convention 177.

The convention was presided over by HBWWF leader Zubeda Awan while HBWWF central general secretary Zehra Khan was the chief guest. A large number of women workers from Multan and surrounding areas attended the convention.

The speakers said that in Pakistan the economy is rapidly being shifted from formal to the informal labor sector. Resultantly, a large number of workers are being deprived of their basic rights given to them by the constitution of the country, labor laws and international labor standards. They said in the non-formal sector there are a large number of women workers who have been also braving cruel exploitation due to gender bias, besides economic exploitation. As these workers are not covered by the labor laws they have to work for more hours and for less wages which greatly affect them and their families.

They said more than 16million home-based workers are toiling in important industries like leather goods, sports goods, textile, garment, glass bangles, hosiery, foot wares, crockery, cloth stitching, automobile, electronics and carpet making. However, sadly these workers are deprived of their basic rights and compelled to work on dirt cheap wages. However, the government is not ready to recognize them as labor at governmental and legal level. The home-based women workers face a double exploitation. Their work is not being recognized despite the fact the share of women work in the non-formal sector is rising with every passing day.

For a rapid industrial progress in the country, it is necessary that these home-based workers should be accepted as workers. Their wages should be increased and their working hours improved. They should be given the social security and basic facilities of education and healthcare. In this was the production process could also be boosted which is necessary for the progress and prosperity of society.

The speakers said that the rising problems of home-based workers and increasing unrest amongst them have made the home-based workers aware about their rights and they have organized themselves and founded their first nationwide trade union, the Home-based Women Workers Federation and got it registered with the NIRC. This is the first federation of the home-basedworkers in the history of Pakistan that is struggling for the rights of millionsof home-based women workers. It is organizing the home-based workers on the trade union lines. It has also been struggling to get the Home Work Convention 177 of ILO ratified at government level. All its members and office-bearers are also women.

National Trade Union Federation assistant general secretary Akhtar Awan said the weak labor movement of Pakistan is getting new energy from the workers of the non-formal sector, especially women, who are getting organized swiftly. He said the joining of women workers, especially the home-based women is inevitable for the labor movement. He said for this it is necessary that the just demands of the home-based women workers, especially to recognize them as worker, should be accepted and made a part of the agenda of the national labor movement. He said in this regard the policy of NTUF is clear from the day one. He said it is heartening that the workers of the non-formal sector, especially women, have been getting organized.

The convention also elected new-office-bearers of HBWWF for Multan district and division and it was decided to start membership campaign in district Multan and extend the scope of membership also to other areas.

In the end the convention demanded that the home-based workers should be recognized as workers as per law and given legal cover and the right of collective bargaining. The Punjab government should immediately announce its provincial policy for the home-based workers and also implement it in letter and spirit. The home-based workers should be facilitated by the social security institutions for the labors of formal sector. The government should ratify the convention 177 of the ILO. The state should include the work of home-based workers in the government surveys and statistics. Home-based workers should also be included in lawmaking process for labors. The contractors and the middlemen related to the home-based work should be registered. The wages of home-based workers should be increased.

Those spoke included HBWWF leaders Zehra Khan, Sajida Kousar, Home-based Women Bangle Workers Union leader Shakeela Khan, NTUF leader Akhtar Awan, United Home-based Women Workers Union leader Saira Feroz, HBWWF Multan leader Zubeda Awan, Sughira Jameel, Samina Asif and others.