Labor Day: the many challenges facing unions – Opinion


Once again Labor Day has arrived, celebrated to commemorate the sacrifices of labor leaders who were hanged for speaking out in Chicago 136 years ago. Before talking about International Labor Day, it would be instructive to explain the current political situation in our country because democracy and the workers’ struggle are linked.

Political conflicts between the ruling party and the opposition parties have been going on for six months. Tehreek-e-Insaf, which came to power in the name of “change”, was ousted after a successful no-confidence motion in parliament.

Former Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif became prime minister and his cabinet was sworn in on April 19, which includes former opposition parties. It is the first time in the history of Pakistan that a motion of no confidence has succeeded against a prime minister.

A new chapter in politics has thus been written; as a result, the parliamentary democratic system has successfully moved forward and we hope that this will result in mutual understanding and cooperation among the four provinces.

The Pakistan People’s Party is numerically not the largest party in the National Assembly, but it is a fact that in the four provinces of the country, plus Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir, it is the largest great party of the working class.

The population of this working class is over 33% and it is the only representative party of the class. It is hoped that the parliament will show Pakistan the right direction in democratic politics. The Pakistan People’s Party has become the most important party in this political scenario.

On this 136th World Labor Day, if we look at the labor and trade union movement in our country, it is clear that this movement will encounter strong resistance. Trade unions are present and even more dynamic in governmental, semi-governmental organizations and other government institutions, but as far as the private sector is concerned, the situation is very bad.

There is no gradual change in the mindset of a majority of industrialists. They still see unions as their enemies and don’t give them the status they deserve. As a result, the truly representative unions were weakened and this period was conducive to the rise of “pocket unions” in their place.

The laws passed by the Sindh Assembly for the betterment of workers are mentioned below and no other province in Pakistan other than Sindh has taken special measures to protect workers.

The reforms undertaken by the government of Sindh are as follows:

  • Sindh Maternity Benefit Act. 2018;

  • Protection from Harassment of Women in the Workplace Act 2010;

  • Sindh Women Agricultural Workers Act 2019;

  • Sindh Commission on the Status of Women Act 2015;

  • Sindh Persons with Disabilities (Employment, Rehabilitation and Welfare) Act 2014;

  • Sindh Minimum Wage Act 2015;

  • Sindh Labor Policy, 2018, which covers child labour, debt bondage, minors, women and special persons;

  • Sindh Industrial Relations Act 2013;

  • Sindh Salaries Payment Act 2015;

  • Sindh Factories Act 2015;

  • Sindh Shops and Commercial Establishments Act 2015;

  • Sindh Homeworkers Act 2018;

  • Sindh Employees Old Age Benefit Act 2014;

  • Sindh Employees Social Security Act 2016;

  • The Apprenticeship Act, 2017;

  • Sindh Child Employment Prohibition Act 2017;

  • The Sindh Bonded Labor System (Abolition) Act 2015 and;

  • Sindh Labour, Health and Safety Act 2017.

Labor Day reminds us of the martyred workers of Chicago who, 136 years ago, raised awareness in this American city of basic workers’ rights and against the use of 18-hour working hours. As a result of this historic uprising, seven labor leaders were hanged by the industrial tribunal; some people were convinced that the movement had been crushed by violence, but that was their biggest mistake. Gradually, the information spread like wildfire around the world. Unions were organized around the world, red flags of rights were hoisted and many states included the red flag of workers and their rights in the fundamental charter of their states.

Today, the entire world marks the memory of the Chicago martyrs with great fervor and passion, but the industrialists and the court of law working at their behest have become part of the dustbin of history.

(The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the newspaper)

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022


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