Informal labour exploitation in Pakistan | Pakistan Today

Informal labour exploitation in Pakistan

Harming the industrial sector as a whole?

Back in 2012, a scandal involving Unilever Pakistan came to the surface. One Ashraf Soap Company hired workers for production of soaps in their factory — which were actually being manufactured under the label of Unilever. These workers however had no knowledge of who their real employers were

This week 32 Khaadi workers were allegedly fired by the internationally acclaimed apparel brand, without any prior explanation. According to Pakistan solidarity forum, the dismissed employees were being paid less than the minimum wage set by the state’s legislation, i.e. below Rs14,000 and all that the workers wanted was a raise in their wage and better working conditions.

[Minimum wage in Pakistan has now been increased from Rs14,000 to Rs15,000 in the 2017-18 budget. However, the implementation of the law is totally another matter.]

When the matter was pressed on social media and caught the attention of all and sundry, Khaadi came out with a statement saying that they had not fired anyone and that it was all a ‘big conspiracy’ against them. When further pressed they said that the fired workers were not their workers and that they were in fact employed by third party contractors.

Khaadi’s latest stance is that since third party contractors had hired these workers, the company had nothing to do with them. While nothing much can be said about whether this is true or not at the moment, we can definitely try to understand the dilemma that is now plaguing Pakistan’s industrial sector, i.e. exploitation through third party contracts.

Third party contracts or ‘informal’ working conditions are now a norm in industries all over Pakistan. This though especially true of the textile industry, isn’t only limited to it.

Backin 2012, a scandal involving Unilever Pakistan came to the surface. One Ashraf Soap Company hired workersfor production of soaps in their factory — which were actually being manufactured under the label of Unilever. These workers however had no knowledge of who their real employers were. For all they knew, they were working for Ashraf soap company. The result —  a wage much lower than the minimum monthly wage and no other notable benefits that are usually given to Unilever’s ‘regular’ workers.

Workers employed under informal third party contracts, almost always have no job security and are simply not aware of their— non-existent— employment conditions.

In February of 2012, ‘Ashraf Soap Company’ fired 25 workers without telling them the reason behind this abrupt action.

In 2012, in what is called as Pakistan’s worst incident regarding labour, a fire that erupted in a textile factory killed almost 300 labourers. After initial investigation it was learnt that these workers were hired by third party contractors and were working under terrible conditions. A major reason of such a high death toll was that the management of the factory had locked all emergency exits hence the factory was essentially a ‘death trap.’

It was reported by the media that the factory owners violated multiple regulations. The majority of the workers were working on third-party contracts, none of them had an appointment letter and their working conditions were deplorable.

But something’s got to give. Labour is the backbone of any industry and it is imperative that they are treated in the right manner. The people taking care of these affairs must look into the matter and take steps to properly curb this injustice with workers

Unfortunately, despite the presence of several labour laws in Pakistan, there is no labour legislation for workers belonging to the ‘informal economy.’

In Pakistan, most industries, factories and other business organisations exploit workers, a situation that arises mostly because of a general relaxed attitude by the government regarding the implementation of labour laws. It seems as if there is no existence of law in the country to check the exploiters.

But something’s got to give. Labour is the backbone of any industry and it is imperative that they are treated in the right manner. The people taking care of these affairs must look into the matter and take steps to properly curb this injustice with workers.

It is the mutual responsibility of the government and industries to take concrete steps in order to ensure payments of wages on time and to provide the workers with proper working conditions. If third party contracts are in place, strict rulesshould be devised so that the workers are not exploited.

Without healthy, happy workers the industries will suffer eventually, and the loss will be theirs, no one else’s. It’s time they understood this seemingly little but significant fact.



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