Speakers stress need to protect sanitary workers rights
Speakers stress need to protect sanitary workers rights
Zafar Ahmed Khan

KARACHI:  Human rights activists demand to link sanitary workers with social security, make bound contractors to get these workers registered with this institution, so the workers may get facilities and live with dignity.

KARACHI:  Human rights activists demand to link sanitary workers with social security, make bound contractors to get these workers registered with this institution, so the workers may get facilities and live with dignity.

There is provision that in case of death of sanitation workers they may get Rs500000 compensation as per the social security law.  But they are being deprived of this right. Apart from this, there should be budget allocation for the social well being of these poor workers, who visibly seem declared untouchable in the society.

They were speaking at the provincial conference Stand up for the rights of sanitary workers on the occasion of international human rights day. The event was organized jointly by Strengthening Participatory Organisation and Sindh Human Rights commission (SHRC) at a local hotel on Monday.

Justice retd Majida Razvi chaired the conference, while Zulfiqar Shah, Joint Director Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER), ShafiqGhauri, President Sindh Labour Federation, Amar Sindh, social activist, Pirbhu Satyani, SPO regional coordinator, researcher Zeenia Shaukt, community activist Boota Imtiaz, Punhal Sario, Zulfiqar Halepoto, M Parkash Advocate and others spoke on the occasion. They all urged for promotion of Social Well-Being of Sanitary Workers in Sindh, who are facing hardships in terms of health risk.

Justice (Retd) Majida Rizvi Chairperson Sindh Human Rights Commission (SCHC) in her opening remarks said they receive more cases of sanitary workers, who work without safety kits during manhole cleaning. They look vulnerable in terms of unavailability of safety kits and proper wages and clean gutters.

Now SPO and SHRC are going to distribute safety kits among 250 sanitary workers in Hyderabad. But the main problems facing sanitary workers include job security, wages, health insurance, law amendments, she said. We want to ensure rights and safety of these workers on equal basis. SHRC wants to help them in legislation designing, we are conducting research to see gaps in legislation and provision of health insurance either group short time basis so they may stay safe.

She said Sindh government has formulated compensation mechanism for these workers, but they are unable to implement the same. We are working to see the law and want to get it implemented soon, she assured.

Zulfiqar Shah, Joint Director PILER sharing research findings said there is importance of these workers in environment maintenance. In case these workers leave this work in protest we cannot imagine how the people may face hardships. Thus the government should take initiative.

He said sanitary workers work under unclear legal framework, employment procedure. He said some employees in this specific work are associated with local government while others work with municipal corporations, TMAs and others, which have different mechanism.

But these workers have unclear jobs. For example, WASA Hyderabad says they have only 70 sanitary workers, because they do not recruit more sanitary workers as per requirement. These workers are not regular and do not receive pension or other facilities.

Shafiq Ghauri, President Sindh Labour Federation said the main demand of sanitary workers should be to make them confirmed employees with all facilities like other employees enjoy. He pointed out that the government depends on contractors for hiring these workers on daily wages.

These contractors are not responsible while they die during duty or get injured. The government may regularize them and they should be provided pensions and packages. Contractors should be bound to register these workers with social security so they may get medical facility.

The government should sign document with contractors about these facilities. In case of injury or death, the sanitary workers should be compensated equal to Rs500000. Apart from this, Ghauri said development of sanitary workers should be linked with welfare fund received from corporate social responsibility (CSR). CSR fund should be used for welfare of these workers. They must be prioritized for welfare of these workers.

Pirbhu Satyani, Regional Head SPO, gave presentation regarding sanitary workers and said there are different categories of workers, among them sewer men are at risk, while picking, sweeping and cleaning deep manholes. He said in the world nations there are safety measures for these workers, including vaccination and provision of safety kits. But here these facilities are missing. He said irony is that safety kits are not available in Pakistan for these workers.

Documentary on sanitary workers was screened on the occasion, which depicted the life, nature of work and problems.

At the end HMC Mayor Tayyab Husain, SHRC chairperson Justice Majida Razvi, Labour leader Shafiq Ghaiuuri , Zeenia Shaukat, Pirbhu Satyani and Zulfiqar Shah distributed safety kits among sanitation workers.