LAHORE - Working class marked the International Labour Day in the city and other parts of the country on Monday.

Different labour unions and the workers wings of political parties organised seminars, rallies and other events to pay tribute to the martyrs of Chicago who sacrificed their lives more than a century ago for their rights.

The participants of the rallies organised by labour unions vowed to continue struggle in line with the Chicago workers for the welfare and property of labourers in the country.

The day’s main events included rally by All Pakistan Trade Union Federation (APTUF), a representing body of dozens of labour unions, from Hamdard Hall Litton Road to Mozang Chowk, processions of National Trade Union Federation, Wapda Hydro Electric Union and All Pakistan Workers’ Confederation from different spots to Lahore Press Club, meeting of National Labour Assembly, workers’ convention by PML-N at Aiwan-e-Iqbal, seminar by Jammat-e-Islami at Multan Road, separate camps by PTI and PPP at The Mall and in Walled City and seminar by MQM at its Wahdat Road office.

Various small labour organisations and workers of industrial units also organised events in different areas of the city.

Hundreds of workers from industrial units, brick kilns and home based workers which included a large number of women took part in the rally of APTUF which was led by federation leaders Sultan Khan, Aima Mahmood, Fazal Wahid, Nasir Mahmood, Salma Liaqat, Bashir Khan and Hamdard Union general secretary Munir Dogar and others.

Holding placards and banners inscribed with different slogans paying tribute to Chicago workers and demanding pro-workers policies in public and private sectors, the participants of the rally complained the present and previous rulers totally failed to address their concerns in the country which got independence to become a welfare state.

Addressing the workers, Federation general secretary and Working Women Organisation executive director Aima Mahmood highlighted the need of unity among working class to achieve their due status in the society. She criticised the proposed government policy of privatisation of important public utilities and pledge to resist it. Aima, along with other leaders, demanded at least Rs25,000 per month minimum salary of workers.

“[The] Government must give labour representation in administration matters of social security and workers welfare fund,” she demanded.

Aima called for provision of social security facility for retired employees and formation of health and safety laws according to the ILO convention. She also highlighted the need of women representation in trade unions’ decision making bodies and implementation of labour laws on home based and agriculture workers.

Sultan Khan and Fazal Wahid demanded practical steps from the government side to protect workers’ rights in the light of GSP Plus status of Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the workers of Wapda, Railways, PTCL and different sectors including textile, engineering, chemicals, banking, transport, irrigation, mines, food and bakery took out procession from Bakhtiar Labour Hall Abbot Road to Lahore Press Club. The event was organised by All Pakistan Workers Confederation.

Union leader Khurshid Ahmad and others addressed the workers. Khurished demanded government to introduce far reaching economic, social and political reforms to eliminate unemployment and poverty. It was also demanded to abolish the abuse of child and bonded labour. “[The] Government must ensure safe and healthy working conditions for workers at workplace in order to prevent their accidents,” he said.

The leaders demanded minimum wages of the workers at least Rs30,000 per month and establishment of housing projects for them. They appealed to the government and all patriotic forces to forge unity to defeat terrorism in the country. A demand to establish a society based upon social justice, equality, fraternity to defeat ethnic, parochial and religious sectarian forces was also raised by them.

Pakistan United Council, National Labour Assembly and National Trade Union Federation demanded increase in salaries of railways workers and up-gradation of clerk scales.

MQM Pakistan president Farooq Sattar was warmly welcomed when arrived at party’s Wahdat Road office from Karachi. He congratulated the labour class on May Day and said the MQM was the only party which was true reflection of middle and lower middle class.

“Muttahida Qaumi Movement is the party which would bring real change in Pakistan,” Sattar said while thanking PTI chairman Imran Khan for speaking in favour of Karachi Mayor Waseem Akhtar during a rally in the port city.

The MQM leader said his party will address all issues confronting with the working class while into power. The PML-N convention at was presided over by labour minister Raja Ashfaq Sarwar while speakers included Parvaiz Malk, Imran Nazir and other. Country Head of International Labour Organization, Finance Minister Dr. Ayesha Ghaus Pasha, Mayor Lahore Col (r) Mubasher Javed, were chief guests.

Raja Ashfaq counted his government steps taken for the welfare of the labour community during the last four years and claimed that round the clock work was being carried out in Labour Department for the welfare of the workers. He said that implementation for the enrolment of children in schools working in petrol pumps, workshops and restaurants was being continued after brick kilns children.

“The development targets will soon be completed with the empowerment of labour class,” he added and urged the labourers to play a key role for the development of country.

Moreover, he said that 87,000 brick kilns children were enrolled in the children and setting up modern educational institutions, social security hospitals and labour colonies are the steps of labour friendly policies of the Punjab government.

Raja said that purpose of celebrating the Labour Day is to accelerate the struggle for the dignity of labour community. He announced new hospital in RahimYar Khan for the labourers and up-gradation of Multan Hospital.

He also announced to dispose all the pending marriage and death grants by June 30. According to the minister, Punjab was the only province that had passed policy for home based workers in order to defend their rights.

Seprately, addressing workers convention of Jamaat-e-Islami, party secretary general Liaqat Baloch said the country was currently having the worst form of governance where workers had no rights. He said all state institutions had been destroyed and price spiral, lawlessness and unemployment were at peak.

On one hand, Baloch said, the public exchequer was being plundered mercilessly while on the other hand, the rulers were begging for fresh loans at every forum bringing disgrace to the country.

JI spokesperson Amirul Azeem on the occasion said that billion of rupees were being spent on metro bus and orange line train while millions of people did not have safe drinking water. “No new government hospital or government university had been set up in the Punjab capital during the last twenty years,” he regretted.

The JI leaders had their breakfast with the workers at Akbar Chowk in connection with the May Day to demonstrate solidarity with them.

Workers at PTI camp office at The Mall was addressed by party MPA Shoaib Siddique while the PPP leaders Chaudhary Manzor, Naveed Chauddhary and other addressed the workers in Walled City.

 

IFTIKHAR ALAM