3rd National Labour Conference 2024

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Pakistan conducted its 3rd National Labour Conference, bringing together key stakeholders to discuss the state of labour rights in Pakistan which was chaired by the Governor of Punjab. 

The conference commenced with welcoming remarks by Dr. Almut Wieland-Karimi, Country Director of FES Pakistan. Program Advisor of FES, Mr. Abdullah Dayo outlined the objectives of the conference, setting the tone for a productive and insightful discussion.

In the inaugural session, Khalid Mehmood, Executive Director of Labour Education Foundation (LEF), delivered a thought-provoking address on the labour movement in Pakistan. He highlighted the challenges faced by workers and the opportunities for growth and and sustainable develoment. Iqbal Ahmed Detho, Chairperson of Sindh Human Rights Commission (SHRC) shed light on the compliance of GSP plus and international labour standard emphasizing the need for greater protection and enforcement. Saghir Bukhari, Senior Program Officer of the International Labor Organization (ILO) said that there is a need to implement laws regarding labour in Pakistan. Reforms in the agriculture sector are also the need of the hour. Women working in cotton fields have health problems, he added.

The first session concluded with remarks by the Chief Guest, Governor of Punjab Sardar Salim Haider, who emphasized the importance of workers' rights and government policies in protecting and promoting the welfare of workers. He ensured that he will work in Punjab regarding the effective implementation of labour laws. 

Mr. Zulfiqar Shah, Country Manager at Accord Pakistan, took the stage to shed light on the imperative issue of enhancing workplace health and safety standards in Pakistan. His comprehensive discourse highlighted the importance of robust safety protocols to ensure the well-being of workers across various industries. Dr. Taimur Rahman, Associate Professor at Lahore University of Management and Science (LUMS) captivated the audience with his insights into the impact of foreign debt and privatization on labour rights in Pakistan. Through meticulous analysis, he said that the government has to borrow more to reduce the trade deficit. Industry in Pakistan is shrinking instead of growing.

A riveting panel discussion ensued, featuring prominent women speakers who brought forth their expertise and perspectives on the challenges faced by women workers in Pakistan. Ms. Ume Laila, Executive Director of HomeNet Pakistan, Ms. Rubina Jameel, General Secretary of the All Pakistan Trade Union Federation, and Ms. Aima Mehmood, Director of Women Workers Organization, offered invaluable insights into the status of female labor force participation and the hurdles hindering their progress. Ms. Ume Laila pointed out that fifty percent of the country's population is women, but women workers in the country constitute 23 percent of the total labour force. Rubina Jameel pointed out that there are no accurate figures on how many women there are in trade unions across the country. Aima Mehmood said that women’s inclusion in labour and trade unions are just as members and officials, but they are not part of decision-making.

The Conference convened its second working session under the expert guidance of Mr. Khurshid Ahmed, General Secretary of the All Pakistan Workers Confederation (APWC). 
A thought-provoking panel discussion centered on the labour manifestoes of political parties in Pakistan. Titled "Labour Manifestoes of Political Parties: A Promise to be Fulfilled," the session brought together influential political leaders from prominent political parties to delve into their commitments and strategies concerning labour rights and welfare. The panel comprised distinguished speakers from key political parties, including: Mr. Chaudhary Manzoor Hussain, Leader of Pakistan People’s Party and Mr. Rana Abdul Sami, Leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. Each leader presented insights into their party's vision and promises regarding labor rights, trade unions, welfare opportunities and initiatives. Chaudhry Manzoor said that in a democracy, if students’ unions or farmers’ organizations are banned, then how democracy will work? He suggested that a powerful commission should be created to implement the labour laws. The panelists outlined the need for concrete steps to fulfill the pledges outlined in their respective party manifestoes.

During the last panel discussion, distinguished speakers representing various provinces shared their insights and experiences, shedding light on the unique challenges and initiatives within their respective regions. The spotlight was on the concerted endeavors being made at the provincial level to tackle these issues effectively. Mr. Mouhammad Sultan Khan from Balochistan, Mr. Abdul Latif Nizamani from Sindh, Mr. Shaukat Ali Anjum from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Mr. Shams Ur Rehman Swati from Punjab addressed the conference, offering valuable perspectives and solutions to address labor concerns at the grassroots level.

The 3rd National Labour Conference concluded on a high note, fostering a collaborative spirit and renewed commitment to addressing labor challenges in Pakistan. The closing session featured an open discussion aimed at building a national alliance to champion the rights and welfare of workers across the country.

Participants from diverse backgrounds and sectors engaged in a candid exchange of ideas, sharing their perspectives on the pressing plights faced by laborers in Pakistan. From precarious employment conditions to inadequate wages and lack of social protection, the discussion underscored the urgent need for concerted action to address these issues.
In a significant moment of unity, the leadership of the labour movement presented a joint declaration, reaffirming their collective resolve to advocate for the rights and dignity of workers. The declaration encapsulated key priorities and demands, emphasizing the importance of solidarity and cooperation among labour stakeholders to improve the industrial relations in Pakistan.

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