A large number of ‘Mazdoors’ (labourers) belonging to different trade unions and civil society organisations held peaceful rallies on Monday in connection with the World Labour Day. Tributes were paid to the labourers who started peaceful agitation on May 1, 1886 in Chicago for an eight-hour workday. The protest continued till May 4 after violence broke out and many labourers were killed.
Mazdoors in their protest rallies strongly criticised government policies particularly against low cadre employees and demanded more rights for the working class. They said that government has failed to implement its decision to pay minimum Rs14,000 salary to every worker. They demanded that salary of a labourer be equivalent to the price of one tola gold.
The rallies were taken out by the Railway Union, Pak-PWD Workers League, All Pakistan Workers Federation, Wapda Workers League, Teachers Union, Brick Kiln Workers, Kuli Union, cart pushers and several others. The rallies converged at Rawalpindi Press Club. Law enforcement agencies had cordoned off all rallies to avoid any untoward incident.
All Pakistan Alliance for Katchi Abadis, Deharidaar Mazdoor Union, Communist Party, a number of public sector trade unions, student organisations and workers welfare associations also participated.
All Pakistan Workers Federation (APWF) chairman Zafarullah Niazi in his address strongly condemned government policies and said that life has become hard and miserable for labourers. He demanded 100 per cent raise in salaries in upcoming budget because of skyrocketing prices. He said that around 90 per cent owners do not pay the minimum salary of Rs14,000 and pay only between Rs7000 to Rs10000,.
All Pakistan Federation of Trade Union, Pakistan Trade Union, Defence Campaign and Refinery Employees Union also participated at the Rawalpindi Press Club under the auspices of Pakistan Workers Confederation.
The speakers highlighted the problems being faced by the employees, especially contractual workers, of their respective departments.
They termed the IndustrialRelations Ordinance (IRO), 2002 anti-poor and anti-working class, and called for regularisation of contractual employees. They asked the government to increase workers’ salaries.
The speakers also condemned downsizing in various departments, and asked the government to end its dependency on the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to save the future of the coming generations.
The People’s Rights Movement (PRM) and its constituent organisations also held a rally to send a message to the capitalists, industrialists and feudal lords that without ensuring the rights of the poor in a democratic setup, there was no hope of expecting a harmonious society. Another objective of the rally was to highlight the need for expanding the labour movement in the country.
Pak-PWD Workers Union League chairman Chaudhry Muhammad Fayyaz and General Secretary Malik Laiquat Hussaain strongly condemned government policies and demanded 100 per cent raise their salaries. They said that children of Mazdoors are without schools and without healthy life in this country but our bosses claim to have made record success in all spheres of life.
The participants, including women and children, were holding banners and placards inscribed with slogans highlighting the services of working classes for national development. Some of the slogans held the elite responsible for the miseries of the downtrodden and lower middle class.
The speakers urged the government to take back the Industrial Relation Ordinance (IRO 2002), terming it pro-elite. They said, in Pakistan, only three per cent workers were associated with trade unions in the formal sector, while 97 per cent belonged to the informal sector, working without any social protection.
The speakers said owing to the expansion of global capitalism and corporatisation of state and society, a large number of citizens were facing problems, specially in health, education, and housing sectors. These problems can only be solved through democracy and recognising and granting workers’ rights.