Illusion or Reality?

Published in Dawn on February 20 2018

THE low priority accorded to labour is reflected in the timing of the release of the Sindh Labour Policy 2018: a morsel of hope thrown to the people just before the next round of voting begins in July. So egalitarian is the document that you’d think had the government come up with it a few years earlier, the province might be treading the path towards an economy “where assets and incomes are distributed equally” and society is “free from exploitation” as the document spells out the aims of the policy.

The fact that we, the people, excel in surviving on the government’s promises and our own grit, and keep hoping for a better future, was validated by the sentiments of the employers’ and workers’ representatives who played a key role in developing the labour policy. The workers’ representatives are happy that the policy is ‘rights-based, participatory and inclusive’ and embodies the principles outlined in the country’s Constitution and international conventions.

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Baldia factory fire: two years after

Published in Dawn, September 11th , 2014

“The comfort of the rich depends upon an abundant supply of the poor.” — Voltaire

IT has been two years since Pakistan’s worst industrial disaster took place in a garment factory in Baldia Town, Karachi on Sept 9, 2012. A fire in the factory that day led to the loss of 259 precious lives and injuries to 55 workers who got trapped in the building because three out of four doors were locked from the outside. Locking the workers inside the premises is not uncommon in garment factories exporting to international buyers. An inquiry report released by the FIA as well as the case proceedings revealed violations of labour laws, safety laws and building by-laws by the factory owners and a number of state institutions.

Two notable aspects of the follow-up to this disaster are the nature of the criminal proceedings in the Sindh High Court (SHC) and the compensation to the bereaved families. Developments in both took place due to the pressure built by civil society organisations.

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