On International Labour Day, Hari Welfare Association (HWA) grieved that in rural areas of Sindh, millions of workers in agriculture, farms, and brick kilns are without social security and decent work, including the minimum wage. HWA claimed that they hardly receive Rs6000 per month against Rs17,500 minimum wage promised by the Government of Sindh for unskilled workers in 2019.
HWA stated that because of unemployment and lack of education, skills and employment opportunities, millions of young people are forced to work around fourteen hours at grocery shops, restaurants, and workshops just for Rs5000 per month in rural parts of Sindh. Among them include women and girls, who pick cotton and chillies but receive minimal wages.
In a statement Hari Welfare Association’s President Akram Khaskheli said that poverty, unemployment, hunger and social and economic injustice push people to survive through limited economic opportunities where they are miserably exploited and abused. he said that due to the increasing shortage of irrigation water to lower parts of the canals, most peasants have turned to the rural labour market where they are paid nominal wages.
Khaskheli said that due to seasonal work and lack of irrigation water in many areas, workers often spend time at roadsides or the agriculture field searching for work when they do not find work and support from the government. They commit suicide.
he added that the primary reason is the government lacks the will to ensure the implementation of labour rights laws and policies. He said that the Sindh Industrial Relations Act of 2013 recognizes rural workers and peasants and provides them to form unions.
However, the government has not tried to ensure the unionization of such rural workers, especially in the agriculture sector. In 2019, the Sindh Women Agriculture Workers Act (SWAWA) was enacted, but the law has become dormant like any other law enacted since independence.
khaskheli said like any other law, implementation of the SWAWA might play a role to protect rural peasant and worker women from abuse, exploitation and marginalization under the feudal and tribal society.
HWA demanded that the government of Sindh ensure that Rs17,500 wage is given to all workers in rural areas. In this regard, exemplary punishments should be given to those who violate the minimum wage policy.
HWA also stated that it should strengthen monitoring mechanisms by increasing the number of labour inspectors and labour courts so that rural workers could access these for redressal and form their unions to bargain and protect their rights labour rights laws.