Labour Rights- Two Sides of a Picture!

By Mehar-un-nisa


The irony lies in the nature of labour rights. The Constitution of Pakistan promises these rights but the real picture depicts another story.


The importance of labour is undeniable in the economic growth of a country. The concept of productive and sustainable progress is just a dream without skilled labour. Giving more relief to the labour leads to better productivity in terms of quality of work.


Only if the rights of the labour are ensured can they work efficiently. Therefore, their rights are protected around the globe. Many efforts have been done in this regard. These rights are included in the constitution of many countries.


To protect the rights of labours, the constitution of Pakistan has to say a lot. Origin of Labour Legislation in Pakistan can be traced after back to when a democratic government replaced martial law. A number of labour policies then became a part of the Constitution of Pakistan.


Article 11, 17, 18, 25, 37(e) all deal with labour rights in the constitution of Pakistan. Below is the list of description of each Article:

  • • Article 11 of the Constitution prohibits all forms of slavery, forced labour and child labour.
  • • Article 17 provides for a fundamental right to exercise the freedom of association and the right to form unions.
  • • Article 18 proscribes the right of its citizens to enter upon any lawful profession or occupation and to conduct any lawful trade or business.
  • • Article 25 lays down the right to equality before the law and prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of sex.
  • • Article 37(e) makes provision for securing just and humane conditions of work, ensuring that children and women are not employed in vocations unsuited to their age or sex, and for maternity benefits for women in employment.

However, the above mentioned Articles are not fully implemented. According to unofficial resources, around 57 million active labour is working in Pakistan. As a matter of fact, not all are treated equally. Some of them are enjoying the fruits of all the rights indeed, while it’s a fancy dream for the rest of the work force.


Board member of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Mr. Akhtar baloch says,

” Labour do not have access to basic rights in Pakistan.”


Majority of the labour is forced to work on minimal wages which does not meet the given criteria of income. The average income of workers should be 7000 but less is being paid. Labour working in small organizations are even paid as low as Rs.3000 per month which obviously is not enough.


Razia, a factory worker says,

“I am working from the past 8 years in the same factory and the minimal increase makes no difference at all”.


With rising inflation rates, these small wages absolutely are of no help to those spending endless hours working.


Moreover, to increase the profit of companies, organizations tend to reduce the cost by cutting down the bonuses of workers who are hired either on daily wages or contract basis.


Food provided to the workers is not of good quality as the ingredients are not good for health. Some factories give subsidy to workers to purchase food and some even gives free food to the workers. But if an individual falls ill after having the unhygienic food items, no medical benefits are given to them; neither does the organization provide medical cards to all its employees.


Without reason a worker cannot be terminated, but at times these practices are also witnessed in different sectors. Furthermore, if an employee willingly wants to resign he/she is forced to work by giving them continuous threats.


Maternity leave and protection is another ignored right. Not many women are protected within the boundary of their workplaces. Being harassed is nothing new and this leads to psychological pressures which affects their personality.


Forced labour is another issue. Fouzia Asif, a 40-year old factory worker complains,

“when our garment factory receives an order, we are forced to work till late hours. Since I have a family to look after, I cannot afford to leave my home for a long time. However, the supervisor never listens to me and I am forced to work”.


The right to create a union is the basic right of labour. As a result of recent changes,40 or 50 people working under an organization are now allowed to create a union. However, primarily only 4 or 5 people have the right to do so. This is another way to minimize their participation in achieving their rights.


The environment of many factories is not human friendly. The workers fall ill after working some months and instead of giving them proper medical care they are fired.


The sad part is that when factories are audited, the owner’s forces labour to speak praises about their organization and if they do not follow the instructions, they are threatened to be fired which leaves them helpless.


Nepotism is the ugly aspect of the true picture. Irrespective of merit, unequal distribution of facilities among labour on the base of relationships is creating further disturbance in the system. People strive hard to get their position accordingly but their efforts end in vain.


Trainings are not given, hence labour is not skilled. Those who gain knowledge due to their experience and hard work are often paid less.


Child labour, another big problem, has to be resolved. But the truth is, it is always ignored in our country for many reasons.


Company owners claim giving rights and some of them really provide all the facilities as well but not all workers across Pakistan have access to these rights.


These hurdles directly and indirectly increase other social problems like increase in crime rates and psychological problems on a large scale.


Keeping this situation in mind, who on earth could possibly think of development taking place in the country. The debate on MDGs is going on these days and one wonders how a country can proceed towards progress without having these basic rights fulfilled.


Government and the responsible authorities are supposed to work in order to solve all these issues.These shocking conditions are the result of the corrupt authority.This situation can be improved only, if initiatives are taken by officials of the concerned departments. The strategies of decent work would help to facilities the execution of process as well. Effective planning strategies if executed correctly, will eradicate unlawful practices which will eventually make a difference.