Pakistani workers demand housing and pensions

06.11.2013

In Karachi workers staged a protest rally on 4 November 2013 claiming housing, fair welfare schemes and a transparent pension system.

Trade union activists including from the IndustriALL Pakistani affiliate National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) participated in the rally organized jointly by NTUF, SITE Labour Forum and Trade Union Action Committee.

The protesters demanded eviction of illegal tenants from 4,000 flats that were allocated to the workers five years ago as part of the Government program. Despite all sort of deposits paid out by the workers the flats were occupied by illegal tenants controlled by the local land mafia, and because of the Government inactiveness 4,000 workers and their families so far cannot get access to their housing.

Workers also demanded the Government to release PKR 40 billion (276,3 million euros) promised to Sindh Workers’ Welfare Board in order to maintain workers’ welfare schemes including financing of the educational scholarships for the children of workers, dower and death grants etc.

Other demand regarded the situation in the hospitals, which are paid through the workers’ contributions to the Sindh Employees Social Security Institution (SESSI). According to the union activists they are in deplorable state and in some cases workers were even provided fake medicines there. Still almost 90 per cent of workers are so far deprived access to SESSI welfare schemes because of unfair treatment by the SESSI officials who in conspiracy with the employers do not issue workers the cards entitling them to the above mentioned benefits.

Other speaker paid attention to the problem of embezzlement of a billion of rupees by the Employees Old-Age Benefits Institute (EOBI), which creates hurdles in providing pensions to the workers. In fact the Supreme Court of Pakistan is already dealing with this unfair practice.

Precarious employment, making it impossible for majority of workers to access even the scarce welfare system and small minimum wage pushing workers to work 12-14 hours a day, were among other problems mentioned by the protesters.

In the joint declaration the protesters demanded registration of all the workers with EOBI and SESSI and a strict action against the owners of industries who fail to act on this. They also demanded to raise pension up to the level of the minimum wage.