First Hari trade union of Pakistan formed in Sindh

Karachi: With the formation of the first Hari trade union, Sindh became the first province with formal trade union organization of Haris and agricultural workers.

Haris belonging to different villages formed their trade union in Mirpurkhas on previous day and announced a struggle to get their legal rights.

They held a convention at the Bisma Hotel Mirpurkhas and formal gave approval of the name of their trade union as “Agriculture Workers Union Mirpurkhas”. They also elected their office-bearers. Mohammad Ibrahim Khaskheli was elected as president, Meeran Amarchand as vice president, Mohammad Ramzan Solangi general secretary, Khuda Bux Solangi joint secretary, Mohammad Illiyas Laghari media secretary and Manoo Kolhi finance secretary. They said that papers for formal registration of their trade union have been submitted to the labour department Mirpurkhas.

On the occasion, the Hari leaders welcomed the SIRA 2013 and said the rights to Haris and agricultural workers under this law are a step forward for their progress and prosperity.

They said that the peasants of Sindh have been facing atrocities of the feudal lords for centuries. They said unlimited working hours of Haris show that they still work in a slavery era. In this dark and dreadful scenario the struggle of the Haris of Sindh is a brave tradition, adding these Haris have waged a brave fight for their rights. They said that that due to this struggle improvement in the industrial relation was materialized and the tenancy act was also passed. However, sadly it still lacks proper implementation. They said that in this backdrop due to the continuous struggle of the worker movement, the workers belonging to the agriculture and fisheries sectors were accepted as workers legally and millions of other workers have got inspiration from this decision that they would get their due rights in the 21st century.

They said that in this representative convention, the agriculture workers decided to make their union. They also approved to make the constitution of the union and vowed that the workers of Mirpurkhas would struggle for their rights through collective bargaining.

Earlier, a seminar on the topic of “the rights of agriculture labours and the Sindh Industrial Relations Act (SIRA 2013)” was held by the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) in collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO).

It was told that the recognition of Haris and agriculture-based labours of Sindh as workers under the labour laws is a great development, but steps are still awaited to fully implement this law, the speakers of a seminar said here Thursday.

Seminar participants discussed the historic bill of the SIRA passed by the Sindh assembly in 2013 under which millions of Haris of Sindh were legally recognized as workers and it was announced that they would enjoy all rights and privileges as workers admissible under the labour laws.

The speakers noted that the SIRA2013 has got a lot of importance in Pakistan regarding the enacting of labour laws. This law has provided the Haris and farm workers of Sindh their rights and protection for which they had been demanding for half a century. Today as per this law the Haris and farm workers can establish their own labour unions. They are also empowered to legally elect their collective bargaining agents (CBAs). They have also got the legal rights of minimum wages, social security and pension.

They said that the worker movement in Pakistan had been struggling for long for the rights of the agriculture sector labours and resultantly now the process of organization and union making of the Haris in Sindh has already begun. This is a historic event that the Haris of Mirpurkhas, where the great Hari leader Mai Bakhtawar Shaheed was born, are making union to get them organized. They said that the SIRA 2013 has inspired the labours of non-organized sector to get them organized. They have now learnt the benefits of being organized and the disadvantages of being disorganized.

They noted that the process of making union of the owners of agricultural lands has also begun as the small farmers have organized themselves. It is a welcome development that they have indicated to accept the right of the agricultural workers of forming their trade unions and CBAs. However, the role of the Sindh labour department is very important in this regard which would pave way for the tripartite consultation so that the process of implementing the rights under the SIRA-2013 could be devised.

ILO representative Zaheer Arif vowed to include all stakeholders in the consultation process on implementation of laws related to the workers belonging to agricultural sector of Sindh, so as to bring positive changes in their lives. He said that the ILO under its conventions C-11 and C-184 expects from its all members including Pakistan that they would enact laws in this regard. He said that it was a historic step that Sindh province has passed this Act. He said that it is also heartening that the agriculture labours of this province have already begun to get themselves organized. He said that the ILO would continue to play its due role in consulting with the labour organizations and other stakeholders.

The seminar participants demanded that the Sindh Agriculture Relations Act should be implemented in letter and spirit. A mechanism should be devised to inform the agriculture sector workers about the health and safety and they should also be informed about the preventive measures in this regard. Laws should be enacted on the federal level about occupational health and safety.

Those spoke included Abdul Samad Soomro assistant director Sindh labour; representative of the ILO, Zaheer Arif, Fasihuddin Qureshi of EFP, Nasir Mansoor, deputy general secretary of NTUF, Mushtaq Ali Shan, information secretary of NTUF, Zahra Akbar, central general secretary of Home-based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF). Hari leaders Lal Bux Sathio, Amar Chand, Mohammad Ramzan, Ibrahim Khaskheli, Khuda Bux Solangi and Meeran Amar Chand.

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