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Pak Tea House » Lahore » An Open Letter to Nawaz Sharif: Lift Ban on Factory Inspection and Ensure Compliance with Core Labour

An Open Letter to Nawaz Sharif: Lift Ban on Factory Inspection and Ensure Compliance with Core Labour

By Ismat Shahjehan:

Dear Mr. Sharif,

At least 23 people died after fire broke out today in a shoe factory, illegally located in the residential area of Gulshan-e-Ravi area, Lahore. The fire engulfed the factory while full shift of 45 was at work. Prior to this brutal industrial hazard in Lahore, many other hazards are on record. In February this year, of 50 employees, 30 bodies (16 of them were women and 5 were boys below 16) were recovered from the rubble of a pharmaceutical factory (Orient Labs (Pvt) Ltd.) in Lahore, which collapsed after a huge blast. The blast was caused  by the boiler of this veterinary injections making factory. The building collapsed trapping over 50 workers, most of them young women and child labor.  The factory was also illegally located in a residential area and the blast also destroyed adjacent buildings. The residents had filed a case in a civil court seeking closure of the factory but no action was taken.

There are hundreds of such small factories operating illegally in residential areas and violating all the labour laws. The  workers of these factories report that  they are paid Rs.3000, to 5000 and they work for 12 hours/day with no proper toilets facility and occupational safety measures.

The working conditions in the industry in Punjab have generally deteriorated ever since the abolition of labour inspections almost seven years ago.  Inspections were stopped following an executive order issued under the provisions of the Punjab Industrial Policy 2003, which aimed at “developing an industry and business-friendly environment” to attract fresh investment.

The routine physical inspection of factories was stopped by the then provincial government through an amendment to the Punjab Factories Rules, 1978. Physical inspection of the workplace by labour inspectors was replaced with a self-declaration statement  by the employers on compliance with labour laws in their units. There is no law to check or take action against those employers, who do not submit self-declaration. Labour unions allege that the government decision has drastic consequences for the industrial workers in the province. They note that not a single industry complies with the labour laws since labour inspections were stopped. Even Director Labour, Punjab said in a telephonic conversation with me in February this year that “compliance with labour laws is extremely low in Punjab and almost 80% of workers do not get minimum wage of Rs.7000”.

The abolition of labour inspections is a violation of the constitution and amounts to violation of fundamental rights of the industrial workers. It is also a violation of the International Labour Organization’s C-81 Labour Inspection Convention that provides for labour inspection for effective implementation of the national labour laws. Labour inspections are central to enforcing labour laws and regulations effectively and universally at the workplace and protecting the workers from any kind of exploitation by employers.

Moreover, the subject of labour has been devolved to provinces after  18th amendment to the Constitution. However, provinces have not yet fully legislated new labour laws.   Constitutional experts say that the recent constitutional reforms have affected at least 130 laws pertaining to labour and no serious work was done before this vital amendment to the constitution. Punjab was the first province, which passed  Industrial Relations Ordinance but had cut down on rights of unionization through increasing the number of employees from 10 to 50 in a unit to qualify for organizing a trade union.

The restoration of the legal and constitutional rights guaranteed to the workers under various  labour laws have been taken away from them through executive orders and policies in the name of economic development, could be the first step towards scaling down this brutal violation of labour rights. More importantly, effective labour inspections are vital if safe and decent working conditions are to be ensured in the industry.

Mr.  Sharif,

You mostly warn against a bloody revolution because of increasing poverty due to policies of handful of elite.  The revolution you talk about may indeed come if this class divide is not overcome and workers are not given rights.

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11 Responses to "An Open Letter to Nawaz Sharif: Lift Ban on Factory Inspection and Ensure Compliance with Core Labour"

  1. mISS shahjehan SHOULD ALSO ASK sIR nAWAZZ sHARRRreef HOW MUCH FOREX DID HE MONEYLAUNDER OUT OF PAKISTAN SINCE 1985.
    As a qualified accountant-lawyer and economist my conservative estimate is that he and his nuclear family smuggled/ moneylaundered well over $2 billions out of the country (Zardari, poor man, only monmerylaundered kless than $1.5 billions along with BBG and Interior Rahman) . And my flies on the English walls tell me, he applied for permanent residence in the UK by virtue of his two british, naturalized sons. what happened to the sugar mill they started in Kenya. heinji?? What about the Iron and Steel Mill in Saudia.

    It was Nawaz ShARRREEF who handed over Mir Aimal Kasi (so intensified is Nawaz’s love for his beloved Baluchistan!) to USA CIA/FBI on a mere phone call of United States Secretary of State without any Extradition or judicial proceedings. Mockery is being made off and of Pakistan by our nouveau riche elite supported by Lawyers and Liars Both (L L Bs). Perhaps FIRS registered (and ordered sealed immediately on N$ orders) in DG Khan should be opened and culprits brought to fullest justice with touching ,love and sympathy. May be Nawaz should volunteer to take a LIEC DETECTION TEST under Article 164 of Qanune Shahaadaat (PAKISTAN LAW OF EVIDENCE) drafted and gotten legislated by me back, 40 years ago.
    Iss Ghar Koe aag Lugg Ga-ee gharr kay chiraggh sayu….

  2. AKB Pakistan Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    @ Ismat Shahjehan:

    /

    Saying is not the same as doing. I respect your views in regard to the problems faced by the labor but had you been in industry you would have realized how hard it is to run with so many govt departments creating hurdles in the way of work. Labor unions is the right of the working class, the workers but you forget that most of them if allowed that ‘luxury’ would readily convert themselves into a ‘cult’ and come up with fair/unfair demands every now and then and threaten the survival of the mere industry itself. This has happened in large corporations in the past and the workers have even tried to kill their factory owners. (once the owner of Ahmad food industries was hurled into the boiling oil karahi…) then you must have observed how workers ruined big institutions like the PIA, PSM, etc etc…..which are almost at the verge of bankruptcy). Workers tend to create their godheads (leaders) who act as ‘bargaining agents’ with the owners of the companies …..and extort monies from them through blackmailing and sabotage with least benefit going to the ordinary worker. Labor officers, officials of the OABS, social security, etc all live off big regular chunks of bribe from the industrial sector. If they are not bribed they create impasse so m uch so that the industrialist has no way but either to quit his industry or surrender to the vile wishes of the labor department. Labor unions are good but in a pace where rule of law is atop. I think it is not fair to ask the chief minister Punjab to allow labor officials visit factories as that would only tend to increase corruption and retard industrial progress. Instead, labor courts be made active and all grievances due to workers must be adjudged there by the aggrieved worker himself.

    .

    No factory is checked by any authority but on paper only for fitness. Thus accidents are evidently going to happen and all this can only be routed out only by establishing the rule of law and putting an end to the mammoth institutional corruption in our country.

  3. Harry United States Google Chrome Mac OS says:

    Ms.Shahjehan is very quick to write about the Punjab government but had no word for the Sindh government where a larger tragedy took place with the Sindh government negligence on the same day. Jiyala and their partison politics is so brazen that there are no words to even condemn their politics.

  4. AKB Pakistan Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Perhaps Ms Shahjehan thinks Punjab as the only Pakistan she lives in!
    Wonder if she has heard Hamid Mir’s talk show of a day before where he
    had the guts to say that the recent arson at the Baldia Garment factory
    was the result of a row over Bhatta between the extortionists and the factory owners. She doesn’t seem to realize that even till this day many workers are missing and the 289 declared to have been burnt alive are played with numbers!

    /
    Safety is almost dodo in all factories except perhaps those passed by ISO or LLoyds….then there are two types of industries in the run: 1) those which are duly registered and qualify for the ISO 2) those which are not registered or registered but operate in slum areas for reasons of availability of cheap labor.
    there is also a third kind which can be termed as ”cottage industry”. These industries are carried out in houses or yards in slum areas where these are generally operated on ”Kunda system” by stealing electricity, gas and water. Adding cheap labor to it their cost of production is low which trades out most of the actual regulated industries which pay for their bills and income tax, etc.
    Unfortunately, almost all the departments concerned with regulating industrial sector are corrupt. they just fulfill the formalities without actually taking notice of the irregularities committed with their collusion. For this they are paid fixed ”monthlies’ by the factory owners.
    .
    It’s high time to revamp and reform the entire machinery which is maintained for the upkeep of the industrial sector and ensure the safety and security of the workers. Without this worse accidents can happen in the future for which the owners of the factories alone cannot be held responsible.

    .

  5. Kamath Canada Google Chrome Windows says:

    Sindh Minister for Industry and Commerce Rauf Siddiqui has resigned. This is a first baby step in the implemenation of stricter labour laws. You know Rome was not built in seven days. It is so dreadful that so many lives are lost and so many peoples’ families are affected by this tragedy.

  6. AKB Pakistan Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    @ kamath

    .

    Rauf Siddiqui’s resignation is meaningless and has not been done in the right spirit. He has not accepted his fault but attributed to others which is wrong and doesn’t warrant the honesty of conviction in his resignation. Moreover, his resignation seems to be aimed at escaping from the ignominy of shame that will be brought him by narrow investigations. Siddiqui’s resignation would have been highly appreciated and revered IF he had admitted his fault in the case and then resigned. This being not so his act may be termed as nothing but a political and unethical manoever to escape the law and to impress his naive following!! But everybody is not a fool to trust him..will you??

  7. AKB Pakistan Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Today it transpired that the Bhatta khors had demanded a bhatta of Rs 10 crores from the owners of the factory. When asked ‘The owner of the affected factory said: TELL ME WHICH INDUSTRIALIST DOESN’T PAY BHATTA??
    So, there is a great chance of sabotage behind the factory arson by goons. The owner also complained against the fire brigade who had no adequate means to put off the fire or to break open the walls. Infact they very soon ran out of water and had no other material to extinguish the nylon or polyester material on blaze! He also said that he was alos at his factory when the fire broke out and stayed there until midnight. As for the fire brigade he remarked that it arrived 90 minutes after the fire had broken out!!
    /
    the tv showed that the owner of the factory had placed fire extinguishers in his factory but they were not used because the fire was so rapid and choking smoke from polyester so horrid that no one got the chance to use them.

    .
    By no means that was a small garment factory. Being located in slum area where cheap labor is readily available this factory was doing a buoyant business!! The owners of the factory are not so much responsible for the tragedy as the minister for Industries Rauf Siddiqui who denied his responsibility and just sneaked out of the mess his ministry has created. Were he in China he would have been hanged!!

  8. Qalamnama Pakistan Internet Explorer Windows says:

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