Brick kiln workers demand implementation of Bonded Labour Act

September 18, 2010

ISLAMABAD: Hundreds of brick kiln workers from twin cities and all over Punjab, staged protest demonstration against injustice of kiln owners in front of National Press Club (NPC) here on Friday and demanded chief justice of Pakistan to implement order of Supreme Court to liberate Bonded Labour Act (BLA) 2008 of which the executive failed to act.

Over 400 workers including women and children, under the banner of All Pakistan Labour Union, in collaboration with Awami Jamhoori Forum (AJF) participated in the protest that started from NPC and then moved to President House and culminated at NPC. Human Rights activist Farzana Bari and labour union leader Muhammad Inayat Hussain led the protest.

Kiln workers demanded an end to bonded labour and urged government to implement the Supreme Court decision in this regard. Earlier, dozens bonded labours of kiln factories set up a hunger strike camp against the human rights violation by their employers.

Labourers were carrying placards and banners inscribed against brick kiln owners with red flags and chanted slogans against Kiln owners and government, which they said, failed to implement the Supreme Court verdict against the bonded labour. They were of the view that most of workers were bonded under Peshgi system and were living under inhuman conditions. They also demanded to set minimum wages of the workers. According to them they were being paid only Rs150 a day.

Talking to Daily Times, President All Pakistan Kiln Labour Union (APKLU) from Mandi Bahuddin said that a verdict of Supreme Court (SC) in 1989 had already denounced harassment by police officials and brick kiln owners against the labourers. “The bonded Labour Act (BLA) 1992 has abolished bonded, child and forced labour but it is still prevalent in all areas of Punjab,” he said.

Inayat accused government and police high-ups of patronizing the brick kiln owners as the latter are reluctant to enroll the labourers. Moreover, he said Public Works Department (PWD) do not entertain the labourers pleas, adding International Labour Organisation (ILO) could not implement its code of conducts here in Pakistan.

He said that payment of wages in advance is a form of bonded labour and allows employers to keep workers as virtual slaves. “Labourers has to sell their kidneys to get themselves paid off by their employers,” Inayat lamented.

Narrating his story he said after the continuous protest against bonded labour and brick kiln owners atrocious attitude in 2008, the owners of kiln at Jhangi Sayyedan, Chaudhary Mehmood, Chaudhary Sabir Hussain, and Chaudhary Muhammad Ali lodged a forged case of money theft against him and he had to spend two years behind the bars with his wife, children and elderly mother.

Inayat said they ordered us for manufacturing ‘special bricks’ worth Rs 29,392 but later they never paid a single penny to us.

Earlier, addressing on the occasion, Farzana Bari said that kiln workers and labourers struggle would continue against inhuman treatment of kiln workers allegedly by kiln owners until court implement its order of abolishing BLA.

Bari said due to non-implementation of the law, thousands of labourers alongwith their families and children living in conditions of slavery. “Brick-kiln industry is notorious for the system of bonded labour, where labourers are not only economically exploited but their rights to mobility, education, expression and physical integrity are frequently being violated,” Bari said.

She demanded immediate implementation of BLA (abolition) Act 1992, release bonded labourers and their families from clutches of brick-kiln owners and abolishment of Jamadari system.

Bari also said labour department must register brick-kilns and should issue social security cards to the workers without any delay. “Free education and health facilities should be given to these labourers and minimum wage Rs 517 per 1000 bricks fixed by Punjab Minimum Wage Board should immediately be implemented,” she maintained.

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