Despite the presence of special laws for domestic workers and clear-cut judgment of the Lahore High Court for the protection of their rights, the Punjab government has failed to ensure provision of their rights and stayed mum over the subject instead of running any effective social and electronic media campaign on the eve of International Labour Day on Sunday.
The authorities at the helm of affairs preferred to issue “traditional” statements on the day like every year instead of taking practical steps for creating awareness about the labourers’ rights or their provision to them. From the president to prime minister to all other leaders who now hold high public offices, everyone only issued statements through their spokespersons and different press departments but did not appear at any forum to talk about the rights of the labourers on this very special day.
A special law was enacted for the domestic workers and a clear-cut judgment was issued by the Lahore High Court (LHC) in 2019 for the preservation of their rights. The judgment, penned down by Justice Jawad Hassan of the LHC, read, “While the aforesaid enactment is a positive step towards protection of domestic workers, it may also be suggested that a day in the year may be notified as a ‘Domestic Workers Day’ along with the ‘Labour Day’ to share sympathies with the domestic workers.”
Justice Jawad had also ruled, “The Non-Governmental Organizations should also come forward to play their due role in creating awareness amongst the general public regarding rights of domestic workers.”
The court had also directed the provincial government to launch a comprehensive social and electronic media campaign for creating awareness amongst people regarding the plight of domestic workers and awareness about the new law. The government had also directed the Punjab government to frame rules under the Punjab Domestic Workers Act, 2019 for effective implementation/enforcement of the Act.
But all these directions had been ignored by the authorities concerned as neither the ‘Domestic Workers Day’ was notified or observed in connection with the International Labour Day nor any social or electronic media campaign was ensured for awareness purposes so the labourers and the people could know about their rights.
Even the rules under the Punjab Domestic Workers Act, 2019 were not formed by the Punjab government despite the court order. According to a survey conducted by Minute Mirror in different areas of the city, the labourers expressed disappointment and complained of being over-burdened. They said they did not know if they had rights and questioned if anyone cared about them. They said finding work was a blessing but there was nothing about relief in their life. The labourers also expressed utter disappointment about the system.
“Finding work is a blessing. We just do our work. You talk about rights. What rights? We know only one thing: we are born labourers and we will die as labourers. Nobody cares,” said Ijaz Ahmed, an informal labourer who works at a construction site in Lahore. “We come here from other cities. And if any one of our labourers dies, nobody cares. Yes, we are the labourers who care about each other,” he added.
A woman who lives in Fazlia Colony and works as a domestic worker at a house in Gulberg, said, “I have been working as a domestic worker for a rich family in Gulberg for years. Yes, I get my salary but I’m not sure about the security of my job and work and do not know what will happen to my children if I die today. Thank God Almighty who has given us strength.” When asked whether she knew about laws regarding her rights, she responded, “What are you talking about! I don’t know.”
When the Punjab chief minister’s spokesperson was contacted on the matter, he avoided commenting.