January 25th, 2021
Textile and garment industry workers from Karachi have threatened to stage a sit-in in front of the Sindh Assembly if the government fails to ensure strict implementation of the province’s labour code. The announcement came at the conclusion of a protest rally organized by the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) on Sunday, November 24.
The protestors marched from Bilal Chowrangi in Korangi Industrial Area (KITE) to the Karachi Press Club (KPC), chanting slogans against the provincial government as they rallied. Nasir Mansoor, President of NTUF, declared that both national and international brands operating in the country have been flouting labour laws and forcing workers to operate in “sweatshop” like conditions. “The government policies, and the attitude of international brands, have made hundreds and thousands of workers virtually become low-wage slaves,” declared Nasir.
While addressing the rally many labour leaders highlighted the fact that a majority of the workers employed in the textile sector do not have “written appointment letters” making it virtually impossible for them to get registered with the social security department, workers welfare fund, and old-age benefits institutions.
The textile sector accounts for about 8.5% of the total GDP of Pakistan enjoying a healthy share of 60% in the national forex exchange yet the workers employed at the factory floor are forced to work in sub-human and degrading conditions.
Zehra Khan, general secretary of the Home-based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) stated that international brands did a business of about $1.5 trillion even during the pandemic yet workers employed by their contractors in Pakistan are struggling to put two meals on the table. “Workers of several factories are not getting the legal minimum wage and they are also forced to work for 150 to 200 hours of overtime every month without remuneration,” explained Zehra.
The protestors appealed to Sindh Labour Minister Saeed Ghani to take notice of the lawlessness otherwise, they will be forced to agitate against the government.