Our affiliated Union in Pakistan, has lodged a complaint to the International Labour Office in Geneva, regarding the violation of ILO conventions and existing Pakistani labour laws in the brick kiln industry in Pakistan. The situation in the industry is dramatic, as there are phenomena such as bonded and forced labour, violation of minimum wage laws, social security laws etc. Below, you can read the letter sent to the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and recommendation (CEACR), by Pirzada Imtiaz Syed, Secretary General of All Pakistan Federation of United Trade Unions):
All Pakistan Federation of United Trade Unions
Web Site: www.labourunity.org
To: The Committee of Experts on the Application of
Conventions and recommendation (CEACR)
Route des Morillons 4
CH-1211, Genève 22 ( Switzerland)
Subject: VIOLATION OF ILO CONVENTIONS AND EXISTING PAKISTANI LABOUR LAWS IN THE BRICK KILN INDUSTRY.
It is brought to your attention that we have lodged a complaint to the Director General of International Labour Office, Geneva vides our letter No: 610-11 dated 09th September 2016.
In response of our above referred letter, we received a letter No. ACD 19-2-2016 dated 03rd October 2016 from Corinne Vargha, Director of International Labour Standards Department ILO office Geneva.
According to the instructions of Director of International Labour Standards Department, I am sending here same complaint to you for examining the situation according to ILO procedure.
BONDED LABOUR / FORCED LABOUR (Violation of ILO ConventionC029 )
First of all I, want your personal attention towards what exactly is Bonded Labour. According to the free Dictionary, it is ”A practice in which employers gives high – interest loans to works whose entire families then labour at low wages to pay off the debt; such practices are illegal in Europe as well as in USA.”
There are approximately 20 thousands brick kiln industries established in Pakistan and more than ONE MILLION male and female workers are employed in this industry. The employers claim that they paid advances to the brick kiln workers, so they are bound to work hardly with their family members. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has declared brick kiln workers as BONDED LABOUR in its historical decision dated 18-09-1988, and the court has banned the institution of Jamadar / Jamadarni (Middle Man) in the kiln industry, but the employers still keep them. The said person is responsible for protecting the rights of kiln owners, but employers recover his pay from the wages of brick kiln workers, which is not fair. The brick kiln workers are not allowed to go back to their homes after the end of the kiln season without paying the debt or the guarantees. If they do not, they remain in the kiln factory, and during their stay kiln employers put more pressure of debt on the brick kiln workers weak shoulders. Due to this the kiln workers spent their whole life as slave/Bonded labour in kiln industries, while in some cases, the kiln employers sell them just like goats to other people, without the will of the workers.
According to existing Bonded Labour (System) Abolition Act, 1992, section 4 and sub paragraph 2 it is clearly mentioned that “No person shall make any advance under, or in pursuance of, the Bonded labour System or compel any person to render any bonded labour or other form of forced labour.”
But the kiln employers openly continued said practice, nor is there any institution which can take action against them, because all landlords and wealthy families with kiln businesses and their children have key positions in Pakistan. The Labour Department has no power except only Chillan; the courts only fine kiln owners a very small amount.
MINIMUM WAGES (VIOLATION OF ILO CONVENTION 1970 (131)
There are FOUR provinces in our country Pakistan, the biggest one Punjab which has 35 districts. The Labour Department of the Punjab Government defines minimum wages every years. Last year (2015-16) the Labour Department (Minimum Wages Board) of the Punjab Government fixed the minimum wage to Pak Rupee 962/- for every 1000 bricks, but the employers pay Pak Rs: 500 to 650 for per THOUSAND bricks. Presently the Labour Department of Government Punjab has a fixed rate of Pak Rs. 1032 for 1000 bricks but the employers only pay Pak Rs. 600 to 750 for 1000 bricks. This practice is totally against the law as well as ILO convention 1970 (131). There is no implementation anywhere in the country. Not only that, but in Sindh Province the kiln employers only pay Pak Rs. 400 for 1000 bricks and they sell their bricks according to their own fixed rates, as there is no control by the Government.
If brick kiln workers file a case for their Minimum Wage rate, the court procedure is too lengthy and brick kiln workers cannot afford traveling cost, advocate fees etc. Sometimes the employers strike brick kiln workers and he pushes them to return the so-called advance amount.
All institutions are under the control of landlords, Feudal families have brick kiln businesses because there is a huge profit to be made in this industry, so no action is taken against the kiln owners.
I mentioned the Minimum Wage rate for only ONE category of kiln industry, there are more than 20 categories in kiln industries and all category workers are facing the same hardships.
C102 – Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1952 (No. 102)
C035 – Old-Age Insurance (Industry, etc.) Convention, 1933 (No. 35)
C128 – Invalidity, Old-Age and Survivors’ Benefits Convention, 1967 (No. 128)
According to the existing labour laws, the brick kiln workers are entitled to Social Security, but the relevant department, namely the Employees Social Security institution, does not have any interest to register the brick kiln workers under this act. Due to their slackness, thousands of brick kiln workers and their families are not able to get Medical treatment from the Social Security Hospitals. When we put pressure on the said department they replied that employers are not ready to pay their share, so it was up to us to put pressure on them. However, it is not the duty of the employees or their organisation to press to employers to pay their share. The Government and specifically the Employees Social Security department have the power and their courts, and they can recover all kind of dues from the employers.
If any workers apply for registration with the Employees Social Security, the officers of ESSI instruct the worker to go back and get the signature of the employer. Here in Pakistan the industrialists are not ready to pay a single penny and they deny signing the workers’ application. Due to this, millions of workers in Pakistan have not been able to register in the employees’ social security institution, and the Government is not paying heed towards this problem. According to rules, it is not the duty of the employees to get the signatures of their employers on the application for Social Security Card or Old Age Benefits card. There are thousands workers in brick kiln industries who have not registered with Social Securities as well as the Old age benefits departments. Due to this they have no rights on Social Security or Old age benefits.
Our organization requests that you that establish a CEACR to examine the above-mentioned situation. It also requests you that please add ONE member from our organisation in that committee which you will establish for our complaint.
Pirzada Imtiaz Syed