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On Labour Day, president and PM express govt’s resolve to bolster workers’ welfare

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ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday expressed the government’s resolve to bolster labourers’ welfare and safeguard their rights, state-run Radio Pakistan reported.

As the world commemorated International Labour Day, the president and the premier issued separate messages to mark the occasion.

President Zardari urged Pakistani employers to adopt fair wage practices, take steps for worker safety and health, and ensure the provision of necessary training and protective equipment to labourers working in hazardous environments.

He reiterated the government’s commitment to uphold the dignity of labourers and paid tribute to their historic struggle, the report added

The president said the theme for this year’s Labour Day was to ensure workplace safety and health amidst climate change, the Associated Press of Pakistan reported.

It quoted President Zardari as saying: “The labourers and the working class in Pakistan are facing unprecedented challenges, such as inflation, rising cost of living, unemployment, and the adverse impacts of climate change.”

“The state also has a crucial role to play in protecting the rights of workers, implementing and enforcing policies to end labour exploitation, protect their rights, and provide social support,” he observed.

The president stressed it was highly essential to initiate measures for the welfare of the working classes by “providing adequate wages, safe working conditions, health coverage and educational facilities to their children”.

He expressed hope that the federal and provincial governments would play their role in protecting labourers’ rights, take steps to eliminate exploitative practices and implement social security programs for them.

Meanwhile, PM Shehbaz honoured the “immense sacrifices of workers who laid their lives while waging a relentless struggle for their rights”.

In his statement, the premier said the government, as per the PML-N’s manifesto, was committed to bringing the domestic labour legislation at par with global standards.

He added that the government honoured the “invaluable contributions of those workers who work day and night in the fields, factories and elsewhere”.

“They not only work hard to feed their families but also are the driving force behind Pakistan’s progress,” PM Shehbaz highlighted.

Stressing that ensuring occupational safety and health was the government’s top priority, the prime minister said he would soon convene the inaugural National Tripartite Labour Conference to further that aim.

The premier acknowledged that the country was currently facing a “critical period economically” and that high inflation had impacted the labourer sector the most. He emphasised that the government was trying fully to alleviate the hardships faced by low-income groups through special subsidies, social security and poverty alleviation programmes.

PM Shehbaz specifically paid tribute to the “courage and determination” of those women who worked alongside men to earn a living for their families.

Emphasising that sustainable economic growth remained the government’s top priority, the premier said: “Through concerted efforts, our economy is on the path to recovery. We hope that this growth will result in more economic activities and create job opportunities.”

Separately, Punjab Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz appreciated labourers around the world, saying that hard-working people were “friends” of God.

In a statement posted on a PML-N account, she especially lauded women workers and termed labourers as the “stars of the industry and knowledge”.

“The labourer’s hard work is included in every building, bridge, road and project of the world,” CM Maryam highlighted, adding that the government was determined to uplift workers’ standard of living.

“Adequate wages, protection and respect must be ensured for workers,” she asserted.

Pakistan for the poor as well: PM

Later today, addressing a luncheon at his Lahore residence hosted to honour labourers, PM Shehbaz urged businessmen and investors to take care of the development and welfare of their workers.

According to Radio Pakistan, he emphasised that Pakistan would make progress if investors and labourers worked in unison under a judicious system.

The premier stressed the need to create more opportunities for the children of the working class so they too could become doctors and engineers as well as excel in politics.

Noting that the government had increased the salaries of government employees last year, despite financial constraints, the prime minister said efforts would also be made to enhance the pay in the upcoming budget.

“Inflation has made life hard for the common man,” PM Shehbaz noted.

Recalling the recent reduction in fuel prices, he said the decrease was “not related to the inflation that the average man deals with — he still struggles with his children’s education, uniform and medicine for his mother and sister”.

The prime minister said his father and grandfather had worked in factories, which made him, his brother and former premier Nawaz Sharif, and Punjab Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz sympathise with labourers.

“The harsh reality is that the labourer today is under pressure because of inflation, whose reasons we already know,” he stated.

“Pakistan is not just for the rich, but for the poor as well,” PM Shehbaz emphasised, adding that the country was not created so that the rich could become richer while the poor remained poor.

‘Tireless efforts’ honoured

In a post on X, the government of Pakistan honoured the “tireless efforts of workers who form the foundation of every nation’s growth, progress and prosperity”.

“We are working together to foster a brighter, more equitable future, while we recognise the resilience and dedication of all workers,” it added.

“This International Labour Day, we recognise the importance of these laws in upholding the rights and dignity of all workers,” it said in another post, noting that the Constitution provided the foundation for everyday workers’ laws.

Separately, Senate Chairman Yusuf Raza Gilani said the government fully acknowledged the “significant role” of labourers and workers in national progress, Radio Pakistan stated.

He noted that May 1 was celebrated worldwide as a symbol of the “protection of labour rights and the commitment to uphold them”.

The Senate chairman underscored the government’s efforts to improve conditions for workers, focusing on the implementation of labour laws and the protection of worker rights.

Faced with high inflation and bleak economic prospects nationally, the workers of Pakistan have little to celebrate this Labour Day. Trade unions have historically not been strong in Pakistan, and today the number of unionised workers is negligible.

Far too many labourers work in hazardous conditions, and lack the relevant safety nets should accidents occur. While pressure from international unions and activists has helped change the situation for the better in the textile industry, other sectors still lack in the area.

According to Radio Pakistan, various public and private organisations will host conferences, seminars, marches and walks today to honour labourers.