PAKISTAN: The 125th May Day unleashes revolutionary vigor in the emerging labour movement 

Dear friends,

We wish to share with you the following article from National Trade Union Federation, Pakistan, written by Mr. Nasir Mansoo.

Asian Human Rights Commission
Hong Kong

An article from National Trade Union Federation forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission

By Nasir Mansoor

Private property has made us so stupid and one-sided that an object is only ours when we have it — when it exists for us as capital, or when it is directly possessed, eaten, drunk, worn, inhabited, etc., — in short, when it is used by us. Although private property itself again conceives all these direct realizations of possession only as means of life, and the life which they serve as means is the life of private property – labour and conversion into capital. (Karl Marx, Private Property and Communism, 1844)

All over world working class is going to commemorate the 125th martyrdom day on 1st May 2011 in respect of workers who scarified their lives for better living and working conditions. The movement which started in 1886 at Haymarket, Chicago for the eight hour workday has gain strength and become the strong political movement to defeat the imperialist capitalism.

The country like Pakistan conditions of the working class from all sector of the economy has severely been affected by the capitalist globalization. In this write up I confine myself only on the existing conditions of working class and non fulfillment of laws formulated and accepted by the bourgeois themselves in due process of time. But one thing is very clear that all the state of affair and ground reality in capitalist and feudal societies in respect of workers speak the correctness of the Marxist philosophers’ observations and logical analysis of totally failure of capitalist society based on private ownership of means of productions. As Frederick Engels said

The division of society into a small, excessively rich class and a large, property less class of wage-workers results in a society suffocating from its own superfluity, while the great majority of its members is scarcely, or even not at all, protected from extreme want. This state of affairs becomes daily more absurd and — more unnecessary. It must be abolished, it can be abolished. Introduction to Marx’s Wage Labor and Capital , 1891)

Traditionally the trade union is a bourgeois institution in its core and is only for the reforms with in the system but the same institution was weaken by the state and capitalist class ,workers right to unionized them has practically been retrenched drastically with all seen and unseen hurdles. The privileges, social and economic benefit which workers have won after couple of centuries long and bitter struggles have started to deny through different tactics by the elite class.

The situation in industrial and other sectors is alarming one, only 4% of the total 53 million workforce has organized under the unions. The industrial sectors which account for 23% of the GDP failed to pay government declared minimum pay of PRs7000 per month to unskilled worker. It is surveyed that 93% factories have not been paying the minimum wage. In majority of factory especially in private sector, workers get PRs5000 to 6000 monthly for 10 to 14 hours daily work. Pakistan has signed 34 International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions but rarely implemented on these in true spirit.

The industrial sector is covered under the so-called formal sector but again 605% of the small and medium scale factories of different sectors have not been registered under the factory Act so their employees deprive of all the benefit and rights which the employer is bound to provide.

The worse situation is the denial of appointment letter to worker at the time of employment, here again 95% workers don’t have written appointment letter so they don’t prove their relationship with the establishment where they work. As a result they can not form their union and at the time of any industrial dispute individually and collectively they cannot go to the relevant court for legal remedy because they can’t prove their relationship with the management.

The other worse effect of the non availability of the appointment letter is that worker not be able to registered with the Social Security Institute which cover all the heath need of the whole family of the registered worker and without appointment letter workers also cannot get benefits from Workers Welfare schemes including housing, education, marriage great, death grant and many other accounts.

We may notice these conditions in any industrial zone anywhere in Pakistan from export oriented manufacturing unite to the factories producing merchandise for the local market. If we only go through the cotton textile sector to judge the workers situation which earn 66% of the total export oriented foreign exchange, contribute 8.7% of the GDP and employed the 40% of total employed labour force, here we observe the stark reality that more than 90% skilled and semi worker are underpaid and work under extreme conditions without any right to form union and bargain collectively.

Contract system exist everywhere through which industrialists release themselves from the bounds of labour laws. There have been started lobbying from some circles to legalize the contract system and to incorporate it into the newly framed provincial Industrial Relation Acts (IRA). It will greatly harm the already fragile trade union movement.

Due to the globalization and stiff market competition production has been rapidly shifting from formal to informal economy because of it give malevolence opportunities to producers and manufacturers to fetch huge profit without observing the labour laws and easily avoid to contribute their due shares to law full workers welfare schemes. At the moment more than half of the Pakistan economy is informal one, undocumented and not covered under any law.

The worst is the condition for womenfolk work in formal or informal sector. They get less pay as compare to man worker for the same job, harassment of all kind including sexual is the hallmark of all industry specially the Export processing Zones (EPZ), the dens of modern slavery.

In informal sector economy women are nearly 20 million out of which it is estimated 12 million are home based workers, the most vulnerable section of the informal economy, they contribute nearly 4 Billion US$ annually. They involve in all kind of manufacturing processes from their homes including sports goods, auto parts, leather products, glass bangles, traditional embroidery, dresses and many other skilled works. But they are not covered under any labour law, having no state run social protection, no minimum wage structure and mechanism to resolve their dispute with the employers or contractors.

Same are the conditions for agricultural workers, they are 44% of the labour force and this sector contribute 23% of GDP but the centuries old feudal system and the hegemony of feudal class on the political system has never allowed to legislate any law for the well being of these workers engage with agricultural farms, orchards and other agriculture related fields. There is half a century old toothless “Tenancy Act” which is to regulate the agricultural landlord/ tenant relationship and provide so-called frame work to resolve the dispute between them but in reality the power of feudal lord and the unbendable grip of this class in country side seldom allowed the land less peasant to challenge the excessive and injustice any where. The agriculture sector has been flourishing and making huge money like all other industries though market mechanisms but the peasantry is being deprived of their legal right to cover under labour related laws and get social protection and right to form their association and having right to bargain collectively.

The above expressed conditions of the workers is the tip of iceberg, privatization, neo liberal policies, weathering away of state subsidies on food items, education, energy, transport, health along with 26% of inflation and many other anti workers measures have contributing great extend in already deepen political economic and social crisis every passing day.

In these conditions and situation workers have been preparing themselves to face and change the present scenario through their collective and joint struggles within some small pockets but all over Pakistan, setting the successful pattern to follow. The peasants in Okara have defeated the most powerful institution of Pakistan and protect their ancestral fertile agricultural land form the state sponsored land grabbers. The same is with the heroic struggle of million of Faisalabad power Loom worker who in very novel and unorthodox way revive the militant struggling tendency of working class to defeat the dreaded tycoons of textile industry, KESC worker in Karachi has written a new chapter in recent workers’ history through sit in thousands for their just demand to reinstate the summarily dismissed 4,500 workers and forced the management and government to take back the orders with out any precondition. Fight of PTCL workers, struggle of Shipbreaking and shipyard worker for right to form union, Pakistan Steel Mills and Qadirpur Gas field workers’ stand against privatization, leady heath workers agitation, fisher folk workers movement to protect their rights and natural resources ,home based women workers campaign for their reorganization as “Labour”, journalists and workers in print and electronic media employees’ struggle of having appointment letters and right to form their unions specially in electronic channels and many other daring and militant resistances have been showing that working class has in progress to awake from slumber and started to ascertain as dynamic force as social class in society.

Now by and large the working class has been showing their anger against the economic policies run by different governments in power since last five decades, they have been robbing of what they have had. Now they have nothing to loss but their chains and poverty.

The 125th May Day unleashes new revolutionary vigor in the emerging labour movement and the day will be manifested as day of workers resistance against all anti workers policies, laws and practices of ruling elite.

Nasir Mansoor, Deputy General Secretary, National Trade Union Federation, Pakistan
Email —, cell # +92-300-3587211

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Document Type : Forwarded Article
Document ID : AHRC-FAT-018-2011
Countries : Pakistan,
Issues : Labour rights,