The Solidarity Center and its partners in Pakistan conduct activities designed to improve labor conditions for Pakistani workers and working families.
|A Pakistani textile worker measures and cuts fabric.
In February 2008, parliamentary elections brought the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and its coalition partners to a powerful position in Parliament, and succeeded in ousting the military government. Yet the coalition partnership fell apart shortly after the elections due to political power plays, and Pakistan’s political future is uncertain and marked by a lack of elite consensus on the rules of the political game. This political tension is compounded by hyperinflation, power shortages, increased violence against women and children, and an escalating conflict against extremism. On the labor front, the rights of Pakistani workers and their unions have not improved substantively.
In virtually every economic sector in Pakistan, the labor relations system is in turmoil. This is partly due to years of neglect, evident in consistently poor legal enforcement at the provincial government level. The PPP has offered positive statements on labor issues such as raising the minimum wage, changing the labor law, and improving respect for labor standards and workers’ rights. The new Industrial Relations Act (IRA 2008) does not fulfill these promises, but is in fact worse for workers than earlier legislation.
Still, the formulation of IRA 2008 presented an opportunity for the Solidarity Center and its partners to advocate for worker-friendly policies and influence the legislative process. The Solidarity Center in Pakistan works with several national labor federations, including the Pakistan Workers' Federation (PWF), a popular platform with a secular orientation and a critical source of strength for democratic forces in the country. The PWF is also a key member of the Workers Employers Bilateral Council of Pakistan (WEBCOP), a unique joint initiative between Pakistani unions and employers. This partnership promises improved industrial relations and poses a challenge to the political and economic hegemony of feudalism in Pakistan. The Government of Pakistan, the International Labor Organization (ILO), and many civil society organizations have acknowledged the importance of this alliance, which has remained vigilant in its campaign for reforming IRA 2008.
The Solidarity Center and its partners also work to build the capacities of a range of civil society groups and individual unions. Various joint initiatives raise awareness of workers issues, including child labor, to a broad audience. Other partnerships provide support for working women who have been victims of workplace discrimination, harassment, and abuse.
World Day Against Child Labor: A Focus on Pakistan’s Brick Kilns.
June 12, 2013—The persistence of child labor—more than 215 million children toil worldwide, some half of whom are exposed to hazardous environments and suffer forced labor and prostitution—is a global shame, one highlighted each June 12 on World Day Against Child Labor. Further, an estimated 10.5 million children worldwide labor as domestic workers in people’s homes, in hazardous and sometimes slavery-like conditions, according to an ILO report released this morning.
Pakistan Federations Seek Unification for Stronger Worker Voice.
May 28, 2013—Recognizing that “the challenges confronting the working men and women in Pakistan cannot be effectively” addressed without a strong and united workers’ voice, the Pakistan Workers Federation and eight other union federations are seeking to unify their organizations.
Report Examines Garment Factory Fires in Bangladesh, Pakistan
. March 15, 2013—Two massive fires at garment factories in Bangladesh and Pakistan last year killed hundreds of workers, many trapped in buildings with inadequate or locked exits. A new report examining both horrific incidents finds that the deaths and injuries were “caused or exacerbated by illegal, unsafe buildings, faulty electrics or machinery, poor safety procedures and avoidable hazards such as blocked or inadequate fire exits.” The report, Fatal Fashions, points out that workers’ lack of freedom to form unions and bargain collectively to improve working conditions underlies this deadly environment.
Pakistan: Nearly 6 Million Children under 10 Are Child Laborers.
June 12, 2012—Almost 12 million children, half below the age of 10, are employed as child laborers across Pakistan, and the number is growing. Children are beggars, car washers, and domestic workers, reports the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC), a longtime Solidarity Center partner. In an effort to eradicate the most extreme forms of child labor in Pakistan, SPARC is conducting a national campaign during the week of June 11–16.
Solidarity Center Launches Pakistani Labor News Web Portal.
January 18, 2011—The Solidarity Center has launched its latest online venture, a web portal aimed at disseminating news about issues that affect Pakistani workers to a global audience.
Advocating for Children in Pakistan.
A longtime Solidarity Center partner in Pakistan believes that solving the problems of millions of children requires a comprehensive approach directed at policymakers and the public alike.