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Workers in Pakistan’s glass bangle industry face starvation

19 November, 2015More than one million workers employed in the glass bangle industry in Hyderabad, Pakistan, are facing starvation due to a broken supply of gas and electricity. Workers have called on the government to resolve the issue, which is putting livelihoods at risk.

The glass bangle industry relies on an uninterrupted supply of gas but the gas department has being blocking supplies  for one day a week. Low gas pressure is also affecting furnaces, halting the production process.
Many of the workers are in precarious situations, often employed through subcontractors. Wages are low and health and safety provisions are bad. Some work 12-14 hours day, with no weekend?
For home-based workers, most often women, conditions are often worse. Women earn less than men and then have to pay rent, electricity and gas for their workplace themselves.
A joint survey by the labour department and UN Women found that home-based workers often suffer from kidney stones, skin and eye problems, hepatitis A, B, C, and asthma. This is the result of  harmful chemicals, gases and smoke, as well as a lack of proper light and ventilation.
Protesting against poor working conditions and low pay, glass bangle workers called a press conference on 11 November and presented a number of demands to the government.
Speakers included Nasir Mansoor deputy general secretary of IndustriALL Global Union affiliate National Trade Union Federation, Zahra Khan general secretary of the Home-based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF), Faisal Qureshi president All Hyderabad Glass Bangle Welding Workers Union, and Jameela Abdul Latif general secretary Home Based Women Bangle Workers Union.

Workers have yet to receive a response to their demands, which include:

  • An uninterrupted supply of gas to save the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of workers in the glass bangle industry
  • Minimum wages for workers in the industry
  • Social security and pension schemes for all workers in factories, industries, as well as home-based workers
  • A policy from the local government on home-based workers without further delay
  • An end to contract labour in the industry
  • Proper labour inspections
  • A training centre for health and safety in Hyderabad
  • An end to the load shedding of electricity and gas, as well as to inflated energy bills