Lahore – The Bonded Labour Liberation Front (BLLF) on Tuesday demanded of the government and political parties to stop helping brick kiln owners and industrialists, and instead make genuine efforts to address workers’ issues.

In a seminar organised by the BLLF in connection with September 18, the speakers saluted the Supreme Court’s decision to issue a historic verdict in favour of workers on this date in 1988.

Speaking on the occasion, Punjab Labour Minister Ehsan-ud-Din Qureshi said the Punjab government would ensure provision of rights to brick kiln workers and it wanted to see them prosper. “The government has bound brick kiln owners to pay minimum wages to their workers,” he claimed. Qureshi further said the provincial government had devised an effective strategy to counter bonded labour.

BLLF General Secretary Syeda Gulam Fatima said the September 18 decision of the Supreme Court had forced the government to introduce the Bonded Labour Abolition Act, 1992, which helped in ensuring protection of rights to brick kiln workers and other bonded labourers. She criticised the political parties for ignoring brick kiln workers and bonded labourers in their election manifestos.

BLLF Programme Manager Safdar Ali said it was a dilemma that workers, the backbone of the economy, were being deprived of their basic rights. He urged the government to seriously look into the issues of brick kiln workers and provide them the notified minimum wages, social security and CNIC cards, old age benefits, and health and safety facilities at their workplace.

Justice (r) Nasira Javed Iqbal said kiln workers must approach the relevant courts if deprived of minimum wages or any other legal facility by their owners. She appealed to workers not to vote for those political parties that had done nothing for them in decades.

ActionAid Regional Manager Daud Saqlian said it was worrying that brick kiln owners sold one brick for Rs8 but brick kiln workers got less than 50 paisas per brick.

The Lal Band also performed its revolutionary music for brick kiln workers on this occasion. A large number of workers attended the seminar. Later, Qureshi inaugurated a three-day painting / picture exhibition at the Alhamra Art Gallery.