04/29/2016, 18.17
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Punjab: home-based workers call for the recognition of their rights

by Kamran Chaudhry

More than a hundred women marched yesterday in front of the Lahore Press Club, holding banners, calling for their wages to be raised to the national minimum. Some 12 million workers are employed in this area, and are denied the same rights that other workers enjoy. Since 2013, a draft bill has been before the Punjab cabinet waiting for approval. See the video of the protest.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – More than a hundred women gathered yesterday in front of the Lahore Press Club, shouting "better wages, our right", from the government of Punjab, guilty in their view of failing to ensure state recognition for home-based workers of the rights that other workers enjoy.

The activists, who held banners and shouted slogans, want the province to pass a bill that the cabinet has not approved even though it has been pending since 2013. This would bring the basic wage for home-based workers up on par with the rest of the country.

“We work till seven in the evening but only get a quarter of what factory workers are earning,” said Yasmin, one of the protesters. “The government should think of the poor; we are also workers".

Since her husband died, Yasmin has had to work in six houses every day. She is concerned about the future of her children and grandchildren.

"I worked hard and learnt to stitch clothes after my husband died six years after the marriage. I married my daughter in her teens, but the boys need education for better jobs,” she explained.

Yasmin gets 500 rupees (US$ 5) at each house where she works. Her chores include dishwashing, sweeping, dusting furniture, washing clothes and ironing. Every month, she takes home about 3,000 rupees per home.

Thus, she earns more than what is the minimum wage in the other three provinces and Islamabad, the federal capital, which is 13,000 rupees. However, this has taken a toll on her health since she contracted hepatitis B.

In Pakistan, the home-based workforce can count on an army of 12 million members, who want the recognition of their rights.

In 2013, the Punjab provincial government came up with a draft bill to regulate home-based work. However, it has not yet approved it.

As a result of this delay, civil society groups have mobilised to demand that home-based wages be set under the minimum wage law.

HomeNet Pakistan, a network of organisations working for the recognition of the labour rights of home-based workers, has called on Punjab’s chief minister to approve the draft bill and announce it on 1 May, International Workers’ Day.

Yesterday’s protest action “is the third demo in one month,” HomeNet Pakistan said in a statement. “Millions of workers are awaiting for the legislation [. . .] to give them the rights of a worker.”

“We have been waiting for many years, and [yet] the government is not ready to listen to us.” In so doing, “They are neglecting workers, whose rights are not taken into account”.

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