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High cost of living and labour class (1).

Byline: Parvez Rahim - Karachi

MAY Day celebration in Pakistan had relevance until the 1970s when respective governments had concern for labour welfare and they would make improvements in the benefits from time to time. A combination of enhancement in benefits received by workers, through collective labour agreements reached with their respective employers and those allowed by the legislation, would provide them adequate relief to manage the ever-increasing cost of living.

There was acute labour unrest in the country during the early 1970s but that was also the era which created awakening among industrial workers about their rights under the labour laws.

Encouraged by the freedom to act allowed to them by the then PPP government, our labour unions and federations exerted extreme pressure on mill owners and employers to concede to them benefits and privileges even higher than those permitted by the law.

Unfortunately, they transgressed the limits and the resultant unlawful strikes and violence led to the closure of many industries which, consequently, brought a quick decline to the labour movement. Now industrial workers are hard-pressed against the high cost of living and non-compliance with labour laws by a majority of local employers.

Since the state does not contribute to key requirements of medical and education assistance, workers unions expect the same to be provided by their employers. When funds available with employers for the periodical collective labour agreements are divided among various heads, not much is left to meet the worth the 1970s' workers' other critical needs.

Going back to the '70s, a number of labour welfare laws were promulgated by the then government to provide housing and other facilities, including education assistance, cost of living relief and old-age pension to industrial workers.

Following the 18th Amendment, all labour welfare laws have now reached a stage where their survival appears to be in jeopardy.

In view of the foregoing facts, the May Day celebration has become a ritual.

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Publication:Dawn (Karachi, Pakistan)
Date:May 1, 2018
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