The blog discusses the rising need of adhering to labor law regulations and the efforts by civil society, government and academia to promote labor rights.
“Tu Qadir-o-Adil Hai Magar Tere Jahan Mein
Hain Talakh Bohat Banda’ay Mazdoor Ke Auqat”
Nothing describes the unfortunate situation of our laborers, than the immortal words of Allama Muhammad Iqbal, the Poet of the East. The value of an efficient, competent, healthy, and resourceful labor for the progress of any nation cannot be denied. Labor is the real backbone of any country’s economy and it plays a vital role in the economic development of the country. This is why, it is crucial for a developing country to protect its labor force from exploitation, through laws, policies, training, and regulation.
The 1973 Constitution of Pakistan guarantees freedom from exploitation (Article 3), the right to life (Article 9), right to dignity (Article 14), right to form an association/union (Article 17), and the right to earn a livelihood (Article 18). Also, there are several federal and provisional legislation which deal with matters pertaining to remuneration, leaves, reimbursement, employment status, labor unions, etc. But regrettably, the ineffectiveness of laws and negligible amount of legal actions by local councils and representatives of workforce creates an environment where the workers are mistreated, and denied the enjoyment of their fundamental rights. A lack of awareness regarding labor and employment laws, among the employees and employers, both, makes certain sectors of our labor market exploitative in nature. Moreover, due to the absence of proper grievance addressing mechanisms, and lack of understanding regarding complaint resolution mechanisms at work places, aggrieved employees are often left without a remedy.
Fortunately, our society is finally experiencing a positive change. The civil society, government, and academia are working for the advancement of labor rights. They are working tirelessly to promote labor rights in Pakistan.
The civil society and academia should launch a campaign to raise awareness about the fundamental human rights of the labor force. In this regard, the Center for Human Rights and Justice (CHRJ) at University of Management and Technology (UMT) is working untiringly to promote labor rights in Pakistan. As part of the Labor Rights Awareness Project, CHRJ team has targeted a regulated labor sector in Pakistan, i.e. workers employed in the retail sector by registered, for-profit, clothing companies in Lahore.The team hopes to devise and launch an advocacy strategy to improve the working conditions of the labor force in the country. This kind of research initiatives by academia also provides the basis for conducting similar researches on labor employed in other sectors of the economy and paves the way for advocacy.
Eventually, an efficient system for protecting the rights of employees will have a positive impact on the economy of the society.This will allow the workers to exercise their right to form labor unions and file complaints against any employer who takes any form of action to discourage the formation of unions. Furthermore, working unions will help the employees to participate in the negotiation of their terms of employment contract, engage in collective bargaining, settle disagreements and disputes in a peaceful way, and in certain cases, will even allow employees to protest without the fear of losing their jobs. This would put a check on undertaking activities and employers would no longer be allowed to exploit the freedom of the workforce.
The proper implementation and enactment of Labor Laws in Pakistan will maintain safe work spaces which will be beneficial for all.