- Women workers celebrate registration of all-women ‘Women Workers Unity’ trade union
ISLAMABAD, August 12, 2022: Women workers from across Pakistan convened here on Friday to celebrate the registration of Pakistan’s first-ever all-women trade union ‘Women Workers Unity’ and reiterated their demands for improving participation of women in economic life including establishing federal guidelines for minimum labour standards in order to ensure uniform protection of constitutional and legal rights of women workers across the provinces.
The Women Workers Convention, organized by the Women Workers Alliance (WWA) with the support of the Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability (TDEA), urged the federal government to establish guidelines on labour standards to be followed by provinces in order to meet the state’s commitments to workers especially women under the Constitution, International Labour Organization’s (ILO) conventions and the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The registration of the first-ever all-women trade union in Lahore marks the advent of a new era in the struggle for workers’ rights in Pakistan. WWA currently operates in 14 major industrial districts and the process of registration of similar trade unions in remaining districts is underway.
The workers’ convention also highlighted other critical areas for reforms. The charter of demands approved by convention’s participants urged the federal and provincial governments to eliminate the discrimination against women in terms of employment as well as in wages, ensure mandatory provision of maternity benefits to women workers, revise penalties and offences provided in labour laws to make them consistent with emerging economic realities, provide one-window registration for all social security benefits, and strengthen labour inspection mechanism including greater investments for its gender-sensitization.
The convention participants including representatives of trade unions such as CDA Mazdoor Union, IESCO Union, Nurses Association, Pakistan Workers’ Federation and Pakistan Sports Board Union vowed to expand the network of women unions across the provinces, and work towards the formation of the Women Workers Federation – a nationwide alliance of women-led trade unions that will sustain the momentum created by the WWAs since 2016. With the economic participation of women on a constant decline, such unions are imperative to protect and promote the economic rights of women workers.
Along with representatives of WWAs, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Minister for Labour and Culture Mr. Shaukat Yousafzai, Sindh Minister for Women Development Ms. Shehla Raza Chairperson of KP Commission on the Status for Women (KPCSW), Ms. Riffat Sardar Chairperson of Sindh Human Rights Commission Justice (Retired) Majida Rizvi, Chairperson of Sindh Commission on the Status of Women (SCSW) Ms. Nuzhat Shirin, Secretary Labour and Human Resources Department Sindh Mr. Laeeq Ahmad, and Additional Secretary Labour and Manpower Department Balochistan Mr. Hassanullah Tareen, Mr. Shahid Fiaz Chief Executive Officer (CEO) TDEA, Ms. Rukhsana Shama and Ms. Uzma Farogh from TDEA addressed the convention.
Mr. Yousafzai emphasized educating and organizing the workers in order to improve the enforcement of workers’ rights. He said that the KP government was making efforts to increase the number of women among labour inspectors to better protect the women workers. He added that the government was working to ensure payment of salaries through banks to ensure compliance with the notified minimum wages. He told that he had instructed the district administration to take action against any violation of labour rights even on anonymous complaints. He highlighted the challenges faced by workers in KP and Balochistan due to the bifurcation of the Employees Old Age Benefits Institution (EOBI).
Ms. Shehla Raza said that the Women Development Department of Sindh was actively working for protecting women against any form of discrimination. She shared the Sindh government’s initiatives to improve working conditions for women in the province including the extension of social security benefits for agricultural workers and homebased workers.
Justice (R) Majida Rizvi inaugurated the WWA’s web portal http://wwa-pakistan.org which seeks to connect WWA to women workers across the country as well as raise their issues and demands before a range of stakeholders including government and media.
Mr. Laeeq Ahmad told the participants that Sindh Employees Social Security Institute (SESSI) had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) for issuance of Mazdoor Cards to Sindh labourers. He emphasized on the need for holding labour conventions to create favourable conditions for working women. He assured his support to women workers in resolving their issues. Mr. Tareen said that the Balochistan government was taking initiatives to enhance gender sensitization among labour administration and considering changing the name of Labour and Manpower Department to Labour and Human Resource Department.
Ms. Riffat Sardar shared that the KPCSW had established an entrepreneur committee to create awareness among people and investors to promote financial independence among women. She told the participants that KPCSW was actively playing its part in protecting women workers from injustices at workplaces. Ms. Nuzhat Shirin stressed the need for networking and coalition building among civil society groups, workers’ unions and public organizations to strengthen the struggle for women’s rights.
The Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands Mr. Woulter Plomp sent a video message to the participants showing his solidarity and resolve to continue to support women’s workers’ improved access to market. TDEA CEO Mr. Shahid Fiaz while thanking the participants for their keen interest emphasized on continuation of such efforts and commitments for sustainable results of women workers’ activism to make their workplaces more conducive, safe and sensitive.