The Sindh government recently established the Occupational Safety and Health Council to protect the rights and monitor working conditions of people in the labour force.
In a notification issued on August 20, the Sindh health department said the council was being established and would function according to the provisions laid out in the Sindh Occupational Safety and Health Act, 2017. The council will be headed by Labour Department Secretary Abdul Rasheed Solangi and include 22 members from the government, employers federation, workers’ representatives and civil society.
The government representatives include members of the industry and commerce department, health department, the director general of Sindh Building Control Authority, director general of the Environmental Protection Agency and KMC’s chief fire officer.
Employers’ representatives include Khwaja Muhammad Nauman, Dr Tahir Baig, Qurban Ali Zardari of International Industries Limited and Zulekha Soorma. The workers will be represented by Abdul Rauf, the general secretary of the United Labour Federation, Syed Zulfiqr Ali Shah, the joint director of PILER, and industrial hygienist Dr Asad Jamal.
Additional members from civil society will be Dr Ejaz Ali Brohi and Muhammad Shafi from the leather industry in SITE Karachi, Akhtar Quddus, an OSH consultant at Max Train International, Tariq Moeen, the secretary of the Fire Protection Association of Pakistan, and Salman Laique Abbasi of K-Electric.
They will schedule visits to monitor the condition of factory workers and take action if any occupational safety laws are being violated.
The working conditions in most of the country’s factories are abysmal with most workers facing severe abuse of labour rights. A report released on January 23 by the Human Rights Watch highlighted that in garment factories even asking for something as basic as the right to go to the bathroom can get a worker fired.
The workers are subjected to severe verbal abuse, denied clean drinking water and even fired for not working overtime. They are not allowed to form unions, with police being brought in to beat and lock up anyone going on strikes. Women labourers, if they are pregnant, are either asked to leave or dismissed from the job. They don’t even earn as much as their male counterparts as textile industries pay them 50% less than male workers.
The report ‘No Room to Bargain: Unfair and Abusive Labor Practices in Pakistan’ also stated that there was no concept of medical or maternity leave or hygiene in most factories.