‘Bonded labour a stigma for Pakistan’
LAHORE, April 30: The National Coalition Against Bonded Labour has called upon federal and provincial governments, political parties and civil society organisations to eradicate bonded labour from the country.
In a statement issued at the end of the two-day meeting of its general body, the organization said: “The prevalence of bonded labour and other slavery-like conditions is a stigma on the fair name of Pakistan and all such practices must be eradicated with the utmost speed. The coalition calls upon federal and provincial governments, political parties and civil society organisations to develop and execute a plan of action for elimination of all forms of bonded labour throughout the country.
“We also call upon provincial governments to expeditiously enforce provincial laws in place of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1992, prepare provincial plans of action, and take all other steps necessary to carry out the devolution of power under the 18th Amendment.
“We demand uniform enforcement of the minimum wage for all bonded workers, acceptance of their right to hold CNICs and derive due benefit from old age benefit and social security schemes.
“The provincial governments must ensure that while implementing Article 25-A, and extending facilities for compulsory free education to children they will pay special attention to the rights and needs of the children of workers, especially bonded labour.
“Women, children and members of vulnerable communities among the bonded workers live under double jeopardy and the authorities must pay special attention to their security, welfare and economic rights.
“The coalition rejects the recently adopted Sindh Tenancy Act Amendment bill, especially the deletion the clause “but the landlord shall not take any free labour from the tenant or a member of his family against his will”. This is a must unjust move and amounts to sanctioning bonded labour. The governor must not authenticate the mischievous measure.
“The Europe Union is considering a preferential trade agreement (GSP+) with Pakistan, offering the opportunity to substantially expand trade instead of aid for equitable economic growth. The agreement requires Pakistan to actualize human rights defined by international standards as set out in treaties, conventions and covenants. These standards include the ILO Declaration of Principles that prohibits forced labour, including debt bondage. Also included is the freedom of children from hazardous labour.
“We demand that federal and provincial governments call upon employers and landlords to promptly realise human rights for all, in all stages of export chains, including agriculture and service sectors. We call upon consumers, importers and governments of the EU to stand firm in their resolve to promote and secure universal labour rights, especially freedom from coerced labour that includes denial of adequate minimum wages to workers and of minimum compensation to sharecroppers.”
The coalition also urged labour unions and federations to help bonded workers form their trade unions.