As the world acknowledges the hard and tedious work of a laborer and celebrates the Labor Day with great zeal and zest, an ordinary laborer continues to work hard mindless of what goes around, to make it through the day. Aspiring to make this world a better working place, May 1 marks the labor day when debates and talks are held, sessions and processions are carried out and banners and brochures are distributed all over the world. In a hope to provide the laborers better working conditions and opportunities for better socio-economic outcomes, more is said than what is actually done about it. Labor Day is celebrated in various countries across the globe at varying days of the year to honor the achievements and contributions of workers as well as to spread awareness about the working conditions and wage issues of laborers. In Pakistan, the labor policy was started in 1972 and 1st May was declared as the Labor Day and a public holiday.
As a member of International Labor Organization (ILO), Pakistan observes the Labor Day in relation to its activities to improve the working conditions of laborers and to acknowledge their contributions. As a member of ILO, it is the responsibility of Pakistan state to uphold the core values of ILO and to devise policies and schemes to protect the interests of workers. But what happens on ground is a totally different story. There is a more of talking and less of action. So 1st May comes and yes we enjoy a day off, read in newspapers and blogs about Labor Day, watch special TV programmes and then just get along with our daily routines and as soon as the day ends we forget all about it. But for the laborers the situation is ugly. Sky rocketing prices, soaring inflation, excessive load shedding of electricity and gas, low wages, rising poverty and poor law and order conditions, all contribute to make the life of people generally and of laborers particularly, utterly miserable Reality Check: The conditions in which laborers work are bad, to say the least.
Long working hours, low wages, lack of health facilities, safety measures, and social protection are the vital issues of the working class, but the mindset of our elitist groups and the common practice of factory owners is to deny the basic rights of laborers and to press them against the wall. The only way to change the course of events, to change this mindset of paying less and making the workers work for long arduous shifts is to bring in strong legislative changes and to protect them through strict regulations. nothing will change until the government formulates new laws and policies. The truth is Pakistan has have the history of bad naming itself not just because of ill-bread policies or lack of proper regulatory and enforcing system but also because of its lack of interest to nip the evils of child labor and of that of bonded labor. Every major city of Pakistan and the neighboring areas of these cities see factories, cottage industries, brick kilns and similar working places filled with malnourished young children working 9-10 hours a day for less than Rs.300 a day.
Young girls, women as well as elderly people are seen making bricks in brick kilns in harsh weather conditions yet they have no hope to escape these conditions since majority of workers in these kilns are bonded labor- where every newborn comes to life with a big baggage full of interest money to pay on a loan his great grandfather once took, years and years ago. Every year on May 1, we remember our laborers and workers because we know how much we need them, yet Labor Day brings along nothing more than some enthusiastic but highly unrealistic speeches, pretentious promises and stalemate guarantees. If something meaningful has to be done for a class who is the backbone of our economy, now is the time to change our words into productive actions.