Call upon government to introduce reforms in labour laws and incentivize progressive employers

 Shahmim Shahid

ISLAMABAD, January 13, 2022: A national collective of women workers employed in formal sectors titled Women Workers Alliance (WWA) and 13 Chambers of Commerce and Industry (CCIs) including those representing federal and provincial capitals resolved to work together to ameliorate the working conditions for women as a means to improve economic growth of the country.

The unique gathering of the representatives of employers and workers was facilitated by Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability (TDEA) under its project Enhancing Women Workers Access to Market (EWAM), which is supported by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The members of the National Steering Committee of WWA and the presidents or their nominees of CCIs representing Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta, Haripur, Gujranwala, Mardan, Rahimyar Khan, Sukkur, Faisalabad, Jhelum and Mirpurkhas were in the attendance.

In a Joint Declaration agreed by the CCIs leadership and WWA’s National Steering Committee, both parties resolved to establish Joint Employer-Women Workers Working Groups in aforementioned districts. These groups will act as a bridge between employees and employers to resolve issues related to provision of minimum wage, employees’ contracts, separate washrooms for women, and formation of protection against harassment at workplace committees.

The Joint Declaration also called upon the government to complement this unique understanding by updating labour laws, ensuring their enforcement and introducing administrative measures to improve the working conditions of women workers. The Declaration also called upon the government to incentivize the employers for compliance with labour standards as set in the international conventions and national laws on the subject in order to provide improved working conditions at the workplace, especially for women.

His Excellency Ambassador of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands Wouter Plomp, Parliamentary Secretary for Commerce, Trade, and Industry Ms. Aliya Hamza Malik, Chairperson Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians Ms. Shandana Gulzar Khan, TDEA Director Programs Muddassir Rizvi, and EWAM Team Lead Uzma Farogh also addressed the gathering.

Ambassador Plomp stated that recognition of an issue is the first step towards its resolution. He recognized the Joint Declaration of CCIs and WWA a major leap towards enhanced economic participation of women workers.

Ms. Shandana Gulzar emphasized the need for the government to take ownership of the issues facing women workers. She drew attention to the economic losses incurred due to under-representation of women in national labour force. Ms. Aliya Hamza Malik underscored the importance of the workers’ perspective especially of women in resolving issues related to commerce and trade in the country.

Mr. Muddassir Rizvi, TDEA’s Director Programs, highlighting the importance of WWA, said that the WWA has not only challenged the dominant patriarchal ideas that had undervalued the work of women and hindered their attempts at organizing, but the unique approach of coordination and collaboration has also been helpful in setting new practices for trade unionism.