Fired for taking a toilet break: The ugly face of Pakistan’s star-studded garments sector

The working conditions for men and women in Pakistan’s garment factories have been a topic of discussion for a while. However, how horrible the situation is has been revealed by Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a recent report that was released on Friday, 23rd January.

The report named ”No Room To Bargain: Unfair and Abusive Labour Practices in Pakistan” revealed the details of harrowing working conditions of 4.2 million people at garment factories in Pakistan – largest labour range in any sector. The report identified the human right and labour right abuse that are not only impacting the factory workers, but they also have to lead another fight to get their suffering recognized since every political party seems to be blind towards it. Women workers shared their experience saying that they faced verbal abuse and pressured not to take toilet breaks and are even denied clean drinking water (these findings were jotted down after a field survey of 140 people from 24 factories in Lahore, Karachi and Hafizabad).

”I was fired last Sunday for not working overtime. On Monday, when I went to work, my name was listed with the security guard at the gate and he told me that I had been gate stopped” – said a worker at the manufacturing facility of a domestic brand in Karachi.

The global human rights organization also documented beatings of workers at the hands of manager in two factories. The survey findings are horrifying that not only point towards the abusive treatment of workers in a professional capacity but their basic human rights are being abused as well. Even after facing such stringent and inhumane workplace rules, the factory owners do not even pay official minimum wages and pensions. The pregnant women are either sent on forced leaves or fired.

Also See: Khaadi Apologized For Printing Wrong Map Of Pakistan On Their Dress And People Aren’t Willing To Accept It

In 2017, workers protested against leading clothes brand Khaadi when it fired 32 people for demanding their rights under Pakistani law.

”In September 2012, a fire at the Ali Enterprises garment factory in Karachi killed 255 workers and injured more than 100. The investigation found a series of irregularities and an almost complete absence of fire and safety systems. The survivors reported the management made no immediate effort to rescue the workers and instead, attempted to save the merchandise first” – the report stated.

Despite the intensity and gravity of the situation, the Pakistani government is completely failing to enforce effective labour laws and systematically hold factories accountable for abuses. Asia director at Human Rights Watch, Brad Adams says that the Pakistani government has long neglected its obligations to protect the rights of the workers employed at country’s labour sector. He also said that now, Prime Minister Imran Khan should seriously take up the issue and ensure safety as a prime priority.

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