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NEW YORK – A damning report by Human Rights Watch had revealed extensive evidence of abusive labour practices in the Pakistani garment industry. The report claims there are currently millions of workers in Pakistan’s garment industry who are victims of exploitation and abuse. The report is based on interviews with more than 141 people, including 118 garment workers from 25 factories, as well as union leaders, government representatives, and labour rights advocates. It claims that lack of accountability for poor working conditions in garment factories is at the centre of troubled industrial relations in Pakistan.

The 73-page report documents a range of violations in Pakistan’s garment factories. They include a failure to pay minimum wages and pensions, suppression of independent labour unions, forced overtime, insufficient breaks, and disregarded regulations requiring paid maternity and medical leave.

Human Rights Watch also identified problems in the government’s labour inspection system and has called on Pakistan authorities to revamp labour inspections and systematically hold factories accountable for abuses. It also says domestic and international apparel brands should take more effective measures to prevent and correct labour rights abuses in the factories that produce clothing for them.

”Pakistan’s government has long neglected its obligations to protect the rights of the country’s garment workers,” said Brad Adams, HRW Asia director. “Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government should urgently enforce the labour laws and adopt new policies to protect workers from abuse.”

The report says that while some of the larger factories in Pakistan, which are part of the organised sector of the industry, supply international apparel brands, most garment factories in Pakistan cater to the domestic market, with the work carried out in small unregistered workshops in unmarked buildings that escape labour inspectors’ scrutiny.

The working conditions in these smaller factories are usually worse than those in larger ones that are more likely to be inspected, Human Rights Watch found. Owners often refuse to pay the statutory minimum wage and hire workers on short-term oral contracts. However, Human Rights Watch documented violations of labour rights including long working hours and extended temporary employment without job security or benefits even in large Pakistani factories, including some that supply garments to international retailers and brands.

Workers, many of them women, also said that they experienced verbal abuse, were pressured not to take toilet breaks, and were even denied clean drinking water. People demanding their rights could be threatened or fired, while in two factories, Human Rights Watch documented beatings of workers by managers.

Full report: https://www.hrw.org/report/2019/01/23/no-room-bargain/unfair-and-abusive-labor-practices-pakistan

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