KARACHI  -     Political parties, trade organisations, NGOs working for labourers’ rights and civil society activists organised various functions including rallies, seminars, debates and others to observe International Workers’ Day, known as Labour Day or May Day in different parts of the metropolis here on Wednesday.

In this connection, home-based women workers took out a rally, demanding all due rights as per labour laws shld be given to the home-based women workers.

The Home-based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) staged the ‘women workers rally,’ which was led by Saba Edhi of Edhi Foundation and Zahra Khan, the founder and central general secretary of HBBWF. The rally started from Regal Chowk and culminated at Karachi Press Club (KPC). It was for the first time that women workers had arranged their own rally in Karachi on Labour Day.

Addressing the rally, Zahra Khan said that in Pakistan the workers of organised labor sector are faced with exploitation, while the workers of informal sector including home-based workers are toiling in virtually inhuman conditions. She said that in Pakistan there is estimated 68 million labour force, and 70percent of it belong to the informal sector who are deprived of their due rights. She said more than 12.5 million workers are in the home-based sector, 80 percent of which are women. These workers generate about Rs400 million annually for national economy.

On the occasion, HBWWF leader Shakeela Khan said that majority of factories and industries have become sweat houses as neither the workers are given appointment letters, nor they are registered with social security institutions besides contract labour is rampant. Workers are not allowed to form their trade unions and majority of political parties do not raise voice for rights of the workers. The Labour department is not interested in resolving their issues. There is only one option for these workers to get their rights, which is to become united and organized, she said.

Saba Faisal Edhi of Edhi Foundation said that struggle of women workers is praiseworthy, asking the women to be more proactive part of social change.

The rally participants demanded that social security of home-based workers should be ensured including giving them facilities of healthcare, education, jobs and pension. They should be registered with labour department and their employers and contractors should also be registered.

Separately, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Acting Sindh President Haleem Adil Shaikh paid rich tribute to labourers of Chicago who laid their lives for their rights. “The labourers have played a key role in strengthening economy of the country,” Shaikh said and added that labour unions are the symbol of sacrifice. He also condemned injustices and violence occurring with the labourers.

The National Trade Unions Federation (NTUF) staged a big rally on the occasion of 133rd Labour Day here that was attended by a large number of workers. Led by NTUF central president Rafiq Baloch, the rally started from the Regal Chowk and ended at Karachi Press Club (KPC).

NTUF President Rafiq Baloch said that the Pakistani economy is linked to the international capitalism and the crisis of capitalism has also hit Pakistan badly like other such countries. He said due to the crisis, growth rate in Pakistan has dropped to 2.8percent from 7 percent. He said that every year more than 2 million young person join the already swelling army of jobless people in Pakistan, which is creating a social unrest. He said the international monetary agencies have become a new edition of the East India Company. He said the rulers are bent to snatch basic facilities from citizens.

Chairperson of the Association of the Affectees of Baldia Factory Fire Saeeda Khatoon said that eight years back 260 workers were burnt alive in Ali Enterprises Garment Factory of Karachi, which shows that the workers in this largest industrial city of Pakistan are no more than a modern day slave. They are deprived of all sorts of basic human and legal rights and they are a tool to maximise profits of industrialists.

Labour leader Riaz Abbasi said many political parties are silent on labour-related issues, including raise in wages, trade unions, contract labour and privatization. They are also silent on the rights of workers of informal sector including home-based workers and Haris. Majority of the people leading these parties own factories and farmlands and thus are directly involved in the exploitation of workers.

Former Chairman Senate and Senator Mian Raza Rabani said that the dictatorial regimes of Ayub Khan and Ziaul Haq were behind suppressing trade and student unions in the country but the current situation in a civilian setup is even worse than that.

“The suppression of voice and press censorship is on the rise and those bringing truth before everyone are forced against the wall,” he said while addressing an International Labour Day event organised at Karachi Press Club and saluted the journalists’ community for working with courage despite these fears.

While expressing his regret over division within the labour unions, the former chairman Senate said that today is Labour Day but unfortunately despite Karachi having most labourers in the country, they are unable to bring all of them under one platform.

“With so much labour in the city, today’s gatherings tail should have been on Mazar-e-Quaid and then the government would be forced to accept their just demands,” he said and urged all labour union leaders to join hand and unite on a single platform for their rights.

He also opposed any move from the federal government to finalize an agreement with the International Monetary Fund without bringing it in the National Assembly that could bring a new wave of inflation. “They are bent upon taking funds in exchange of sovereignty of the country,” he said and added that they would not let it happen at any cost.

He said that a labourer could not afford two-time meal due to hike in fuel prices that had ultimately soared prices of other basic commodities.

He also opposed the division of Sindh province and imposition of governor rule in the province. He said that the government is trying to create a divide between the democratic forces but the labourers of the country would not let it happen.