Rumsha Sultan Khan, Karachi.
Rethinking Labour Day
Labour Day is celebrated annually on May 1 as an international workers’ holiday. It is a day put aside to honour workers, regardless of the sector they work in. However, in Pakistan, the luxury of affording a day off to rest in commemoration of their work is only enjoyed by white-collar workers, office professionals and those employed in the secondary and tertiary sectors of the industry.
Over the years, May Day celebrations in Pakistan have been reduced to no more than an annual ritual without the zeal and enthusiasm that had been the hallmark of the event in the recent past. Of course, worker unions stage rallies on the day and a number of conferences and seminars are held to acknowledge the contribution of labour in the development of our country and to enlighten people about the problems being faced by them and their solutions. However, it is back to the same old routine the next day. The fate of labour in our country seems to have been handed over to the vagaries of the market. It is now the principle of supply and demand that is what is dictating our labour market currently. As such, labour is often deprived of even minimum basic pay and minimum health cover and neither do they get enough to send their children to school.
Self-employed or blue-collar workers, including masons, painters, electricians, mechanics and others are often spotted sitting along pavements with their set of tools or in their respective shops awaiting the arrival of the super-ordinate labourers to bring them work so they can have enough money to return home with a satisfying meal for the family. Labour Day is intended to perceive the efficiency and commitments of the considerable number of workers of all sectors and they all should have the capacity to observe it.