Climate change calamities compound problems of home-based workers in Pakistan
A very big challenge is ahead in shape of food crisis and closure of textile sector as the torrential rains have massively damaged paddy, rice and cotton crops.
The stakeholders are not being properly consulted regarding practical implementation of the Home-based Workers Act.
The recent climate change induced rain-floods have compounded the problems of already vulnerable home-based workers in Pakistan, especially in Sindh province and a very big challenge is ahead in shape of food crisis and closure of textile sector as the torrential rains have massively damaged paddy, rice and cotton crops, said speakers on the occasion of International Home-based Workers Day on Thursday.
Addressing a press conference held by Home Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) Pakistan, at the Karachi Press Club (KPC), Zehra Akbar Khan, general secretary of HBWWF said that on October 20, 2000, a Kathmandu Declaration for the rights of South Asian home-based workers was adopted by representatives of South Asian governments, UN agencies and trade unions in a conference organized by UNIFEM and WIEGO, supported by International Development Research Centre at Kathmandu, Nepal.
She said there at least 50 million home-based workers in South Asia, 80percent of them women. She said in the Kathmandu declaration it was promised to formulate National Policy on Home-based Workers by each participating country; however, it is still a distant dream.
She said Sindh province in Pakistan was the first province and Pakistan was the first country of South Asia that passed a law for home-based workers in 2010. She said later KP and Balochistan provinces have also passed such laws for the home-based workers but the Punjab assembly is yet to pass this law and also there is no such law in federal territory of Islamabad. She regretted that despite passage of this law, its proper benefits and privileges are yet to be given to the home-based workers. She said after Covid and then now recent rains and floods the economic issues of the home-based workers have been further deteriorated and they face a bleak future. She said the registration process of home-based workers is yet in limbo and the Sindh labor department is not serious in registration of home-based workers, though the HBWWF has already provided them with necessary equipment and software.
Khan regretted that the stakeholders are not being properly consulted regarding practical implementation of the Home-based Workers Act. She said they have got filled registration forms of a lot of home-based workers and deposited them with the Labor Department but they are yet to start their verification process. She said they have given an ultimatum of one month to the Sindh labor department and if they failed to start and complete the verification process the home-based workers would stage protests.
She said their demand about the universalization of labor for SESSI benefits has been accepted and included in the definition but it is said that the home-based workers would pay a self-contribution of Rs1500 per month. She said the earning of women home-based workers is meagre and they cannot pay such monthly contribution; therefore, this condition should be abolished or reduced to Rs200 to Rs300 per month. She demanded that the home-based workers should be included in the orbit of minimum wages. She demanded equal wages for equal work for all home-based workers. She said that a Council under the Home-based Workers Act should be established without further loss of time. She said that on the occasion of international day of home-based workers, besides Karachi home-based workers are staging programs in Hyderabad and Faisalabad also.
Peoples Labor Bureau (PLB) President and veteran PPP labor leader Habibuddin Junedi said that the provincial government of Sindh has passed more labor-friendly laws than any other province of Pakistan. He said we have worked a lot for the rights of laborers. He accepted that the issue of implementation of the labor laws is there, adding the government should take practical steps to get the laws implemented. He said there are ‘system issues’ and tardy bureaucracy that are main hindrance in way of swift implementation of labor laws including Home-based Workers Act. He assured of his all-out cooperation to get these issues resolved soon.
Nasir Mansoor, general secretary of National Trade Union Federation Pakistan (NTUF) said that more than a decade has passed of approval of the Kathmandu declaration but the National Policy for Home-based Workers is yet to be formed in Pakistan. He said we have not yet ratified crucial ILO convention in this regard. He said international labor agencies are not taking on board the real representatives of Sindh labors in consultation process despite the fact that almost seventy percent of industries are situated in Karachi. He said after anti-labor pacts with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the process of de-economization is on the rise and formal labor is being shifted to non-formal and de-economy sector on a fast track.
He expressed grave concern over harsh climate changes due to growing carbon emission by the industrial countries. He said the promise of a fund of $100billion to compensate the losses of climate change hit nations is yet to be materialize. He said after recent heavy rains paddy and cotton crops have been lost, especially in Sindh and a big food crisis is in the offing. He said due to damage of cotton crop, the textile industry would face closure and it is feared that hundreds of thousands of textile workers would be rendered jobless in Karachi alone.
To a question, he said labor organizations, especially HBWWF and NTUF are generating donations for the flood affected workers, providing them relief goods and holding relief camps for them in different areas.
Perveen Bano, a home-based worker from Yousuf Goth Karachi said the women home-based workers are facing a lot of difficulties due to growing joblessness and very low wages. She said we went door to door and got registration forms filled from women home-based workers but the labour department is not verifying them. She warned that if the registration process was not started soon the women home-based workers would protest strongly and it would create immense political problems for the government.
The speakers demanded to get the Home-based Workers Act fully implemented by constituting a Council under it and ensuring registration of the home-based workers to give them their due benefits and privileges. They warned if the demands of the home-based workers are not met they would stage protests for their due rights.