May Day and its challenges by By Khurshid Ahmad (General Secretary Pakistan Workers Federation)
Working class of Pakistan, along with their counterparts in other countries all over the world, has been commemorating the International Labour Day on May 1 throughout the country by holding meetings and rallies in order to voice for establishing a society based upon fraternity, equality, democracy, social justice and human dignity.
The industrial revolution in the West, including in the United States, in the 19th century brought a new culture in the respective societies by the industrialists.
They were keen to earn profit as much as they could by ignoring the legitimate care for the workers. That was the reason that the working class at Chicago in the year 1886 protested against inhuman working conditions and longer working hours and denial of their fundamental rights which culminated in the success of recognition on the principle of 8 working hours in a day and respect of fundamental right of freed of association, which has now been acknowledged at international level through conventions adopted by ILO as well as UN declaration on human rights. The working class of Pakistan has been commemorating this day in the period which poses challenges.
(i) How to make Pakistan as an egalitarian society and to provide decent employment to the work force when almost 1.6 million young labour force is entering the labour market every year.
(ii) Human resources development in Pakistan is decreasing every year comparing with other countries due to lack of provision of fundamental facilities of the education to the poor segments of the society. Almost 61% children are dropped at primary level due to the poverty of their parents.
(iii) The challenges of globalisation of economy and rapid technological development in the 21st century along with multi-dimensional problems being faced by the work force in the form of rising unemployment and poverty and lack of access to basic needs and prevalence of outdated feudalistic system in the rural area and also norms for providing social justice to the work force in the country.
(iv) Over and above, the rehabilitation of 22 million victims affected by the flood, others by the terrorism, impact of the serious electricity and gas load shedding are great challenges towards economic and social development of the country.
(v) Pakistan has been bailed out by IMF with stringent conditionalities, which are required to be eased.
(vi) The irrational gap between the rich and poor is widening day-to-day creating vast inequalities in the society, absence of good governance and equality before law, not making countable to those who are at the helm of affairs.
(vii) Need to bring labour legislation in conformity with the principles of ILO Conventions ratified by the government, particularly revival of National Legislative framework of Registration of National Trade Unions and resolutions of industrial disputes of national undertakings which have been abolished after the introduction of 18th Constitutional Amendment and expiry of Industrial Relations Act, 2008 on 30th April, 2011.
(viii) Need to revive independent Labour Inspection Machinery for enforcement of the various statutory labour laws, including minimum wages, social security, old age benefit and gender parity and safety and health which had been made redundant by the Industrial Policy 2003 by the then government
(ix) Need to adopt the policy of National Economic Self-Reliance to promote the national industries and agriculture and human resources to meet the challenges of globalisation of economy and free trade and rapid technological development through promotion of national industries.
Agriculture, abolishing of outdated feudalistic system and develop infrastructure to overcome the electricity and gas load shedding not only to provide employment to the rising work force but also enable our country to have competitive capacity in international playground.
The working class commemorating this day will pledge to continue to make concerted struggle to establish an egalitarian society free from exploitation, ensuring equality and fraternity and security and social justice and decent work and respect of their fundamental rights in the society as promised by father of the nation and Dr Allama Iqbal