06/12/2018, 19.10
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Faisalabad mayor pays Christian sanitation workers after six months of waiting

by Shafique Khokhar

The politician signs the cheques for the first month. More than 2,000 ex workers, 90 per cent of whom are Christian, have been waiting since the start of 2018, of which. Pensions range from 22 to 88 dollars a month, depending on the years of service. Many beneficiaries who suffer from work-related illnesses cannot pay for their medications.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) – After six months of waiting, the former employees of the Faisalabad City Waste Management Company received their monthly pension. At least 2,200 people, 90 per cent of whom are Christian, were waiting for this since the start of the year.

Last Sunday, they organised a protest in front of the company’s offices, pledging to come back today for more. But yesterday, to prevent it, mayor Malik Razzaq signed the cheques.

Pensions range from 2,500 to 10,000 Pakistani rupees (US$ 22 to US$ 88), based on the years of service. In total, the mayor paid out 161,000 rupees (US$ 1,400), promising that the pensions for the next four months will be paid following Eid celebrations, which mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

After the announcement, the sanitation workers decided to suspend today’s demonstration. However, the pensioners union pledged more protests to hold the mayor to his word.

Sunday’s action was organised by trade unions and Christian associations like the Ittehad Labour and Staff Union, Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP) and the National Minorities' Alliance Pakistan.

The organisations representing workers engaged in what few want to do had complained that the city was late in paying. They stressed that on 10 May, the Lahore High Court had ordered the payment of back pensions but nothing had happened.

For Ittehad Labour and Staff Union leader Abrar Younas, the responsibility for the delays lay with the mayor himself.

"He used pension funds for his political campaign,” Younas said. “This is a major violation of pensioners’ rights. Some of the latter have serious health problems."

In fact, because of the toxic substances present in the waste, sanitation workers have inhaled noxious fumes over the years. As a result, many of them have contracted asthma, skin allergies, heart problems, intestinal disorders, hepatitis.

Robin Daniel, president of the National Minorities' Alliance Pakistan, notes that since this started, "seven people have died from lack of medicines and stress. We are worried about families’ health and the economic situation. Most former employees have no other means to live on except their pension. We will continue our battle until we get justice."

HRFP president Naveed Walter also slammed “the threats against pensioners,” adding “We will continue to provide them with legal support. We leave all options open, including an appeal to the Supreme Court."

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