Implementation awaited after recognition of Haris as workers

Karachi/ Khairpur Nathan Shah: In a historic move, the Haris and agricultural and fisheries workers of Sindh, under the Sindh Industrial Relations Act (SIRA) were accepted as workers as per labor laws in the year 2013; however, even after passage of three years this act still awaits full implementation, observed the speakers of seminar here on Thursday.

Though the formal recognition of Haris and agriculture-based labors of Sindh as workers under the labor laws is a big move forwards, but solid steps are yet to be taken to fully implement this law, said the speakers of a seminar on “the rights of agriculture labors and the Sindh Industrial Relations Act (SIRA 2013)” held at a local hotel by the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) in collaboration with the International Labor Organization (ILO).

A large number of Haris and representatives of different organizations related to the Haris and agricultural workers attended the moot.

They welcomed that after formation of a Hari union in Mirpurkhas now the Haris and agricultural workers of Khairpur Nathan Shah, district Dadu, have also decided to form their union and get it registered with the labor department.

The speakers shed light on different aspects of the SIRA 2013 passed by the Sindh assembly three years ago under which a large number of Haris and agriculture workers of Sindh were legally recognized as workers. Under this bill it was promised that these Haris and peasants would enjoy all rights and privileges as workers admissible under the labor laws of the land.

The speakers said that the SIRA2013 is a very important labor law of Pakistan, as it has provided the Haris and farm workers of Sindh their rights and protection for which they had been demanding for half a century. According to this law the Haris and farm workers can establish their own labor 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.

The heroic workers’ movement in Pakistan has been struggling for long for the rights of the agriculture sector labors. It is the result of this brave struggle that now the process of organization and union making of the Haris in Sindh has already begun. It is heartening that the SIRA 2013 has inspired the labors of non-organized sector to get them organized. Now they fully know the benefits of being organized and the disadvantages of being disorganized, as their rights could only be realized when they form their own unions and collective bargaining agents.

The process of making union of the Haris and small landlords 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.

The speakers praised the role of the Sindh labor department in the registration of the Hari unions, 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 talked on the role of ILO in resolving the issues of labors in different countries of the world. He also talked about their project of getting the Haris of different districts of Sindh organized in their own trade unions. He said the ILO would try its best 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.

Zaheer Arif told the moot 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 labor organizations and other stakeholders.

The representative of Sindh labor department on the occasion discussed different aspects of the SIRA2013 and assured the seminar participants that they would continue to play their due role for maximum facilitation of the workers and Haris as per the labor laws.

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, they asked adding laws should be enacted on the federal level about occupational health and safety.

Those spoke included Gulfam Nabi Memon, joint labor director, government of Sindh; representative of the ILO, Zaheer Arif Fasihuddin Qureshi of EFP, Nasir Mansoor, deputy general secretary of NTUF, Mushtaq Ali Shan, information secretary of NTUF and others.