Home > South-Asia >> Pakistan

A minimum wage of Rupees 15000 for eight hours a day

Labour Party Pakistan - May 1, 2011

Farooq Tariq Since 1886 May Day has been the workers' day across the globe "It is Resolved... that eight hours shall constitute a legal day's labor from and after May 1, 1886".

The origin of May Day is indissolubly bound up with the struggle for the shorter workday a demand of major political significance for the working class. This struggle is manifest almost from the beginning of the factory system in the United States. Although the demand for higher wages appears to be the most prevalent cause for the early strikes in this country, the question of shorter hours and the right to organize were always kept in the foreground when workers formulated their demands against the bosses and the government.

The movement for a shorter workday was not only peculiar to the United States, but was common wherever workers were exploited under the rising capitalist system, can be seen from the fact that even in far away Australia the building trade workers raised the slogan "8 hours work, 8 hours recreation and 8 hours rest" and were successful in securing this demand in 1856, long before the workers in US got this approved.

The 8-hour day movement which directly gave birth to May Day, must, however, be traced to the general movement initiated in the United States in 1884. Earlier, Eight-hour leagues were formed as a result of the agitation of the National Labor Union; and through the political activity which the organization developed, several state governments adopted the 8-hour day on public work and the US Congress enacted a similar law in 1868.

The decision for the 8-hour day was made by the National Labor Union in August, 1866. In September of the same year the Geneva Congress of the First International went on record for the same demand in the following words:

The legal limitation of the working day is a preliminary condition without which all further attempts at improvements and emancipation of the working class must prove abortive....The Congress proposes 8 hours as the legal limit of the working day.
Although the decade 1880-1890 was generally one of the most active in the development of American industry and the extension of the home market, the year 1883-1885 experienced a depression which was a repeated depression following the crisis of 1873. The movement for a shorter workday received added momentum from the unemployment and the great suffering which prevailed during that period.

At the convention of the Labor Federation in 1885, the resolution on the walk-out for May First of the following year was reiterated and several national unions took action to prepare for the struggle, among them particularly the Carpenters and Cigar Makers.

The May First 1886, strike was most aggressive in Chicago, which was at that time the centre of a militant Left-wing labor movement. An 8-hour Association was formed long in advance of the strike to prepare for it. On May First, Chicago witnessed a great outpouring of workers, who laid down tools at the call of the organized labor movement of the city. May 4 1986, at Haymarket Square was called to protest against the brutal attack of the police upon a meeting of striking workers at the McCormick Reaper Works on May 3, where six workers were killed and many wounded. The meeting was peaceful and about to be adjourned when the police again launched an attack upon the assembled workers. A bomb was thrown into the crowd, killing a sergeant. A battle ensued with the result that seven policemen and four workers were dead. The blood bath at Haymarket Square, the railroading to the gallows of Albert Parsons, August Spies, Adolft Fischer and George Engel, and the imprisonment of the other militant Chicago leaders, was the counterrevolutionary answer of the Chicago bosses.

The First International which passed the resolution for eight hours day, ceased to exist as an international organization in 1872, when its headquarters were removed from London to New York. It was at the first congress of the reconstituted International, later known as the Second International, held at Paris in 1889 that May First was set aside as a day upon which the workers of the world, organized in their political parties and trade unions, were to fight for the important political demand: the 8-hour day.

The Paris Congress adopted the following resolution:

The Congress decides to organize a great international demonstration, so that in all countries and in all cities on one appointed day the toiling masses shall demand of the state authorities the legal reduction of the working day to eight hours, as well as the carrying out of other decisions of the Paris Congress. Since a similar demonstration has already been decided upon for May 1, 1890, by the American Federation of Labor at its Convention in St. Louis, December, 1888, this day is accepted for the international demonstration. The workers of the various countries must organize this demonstration according to conditions prevailing in each country.
This was beginning of the May Day demonstrations and rallies internationally. In Pakistan, the first Labour Policy in 1972 announced by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto government, declared 1st May as Gazetted Holiday.

Most of the workers in Pakistan have still to achieve an eight hours working day in practice. They work long hours on a skimpy slave wages. Many workers do two or three jobs a day just to live on. Workers in Pakistan have become the victims of a massive onslaught on their lives by successive military dictatorships and civilian governments.

In Pakistan, millions are unemployed or "economically inactive" This wastes people's lives and talents. Others are on stupid short term and short hour's contracts working only when it suits the boss's immediate need.

May Day 2011 sees the working class of Pakistan and many other countries facing an absolute assault on the standard of living by the implementation of neo liberal agenda. Even the poorest of the poor, the very young and the frail elderly are affected by the present on going price hike.

The official monthly minimum wage of Rupees 7000 (US$75) is not awarded to over 80 percent workers of private institutions and factories in Pakistan, according to a recent survey by Labour Education Foundation. There is no government action against this gross violation of labour laws. This meagre wage is not at all sufficient to live a decent life. A decent wage for an unskilled worker in Pakistan is calculated by several national trade unions at Rupees 15000 a month linked to price hike.

The agricultural workers and women workers are even worst paid. Most of the jobs are for 12 hours day. The government has not lifted a ban on labour inspection of the factories imposed under General Mushraf dictatorship. The tasks of May Day struggle are yet to be fulfilled. Yet, the heroic struggle of one section after the other is forcing the government and private institutions to bow down in front of the genuine demands of the workers. Hardly a day is gone without a fight in one or another city. The solidarity among the working class internationally is one of the most effective ways of helping each other in bad times."

There is a plenty of money in the world to overcome the basic needs of the people. However, that is possessed only by few. Globally, 2,000 people have as much wealth as the bottom 4 billion, (well over half the human population). This as 2.5 billion humans live on $2/day, 800 million have inadequate water, and another 800 million not enough food. In Pakistan the gulf between the rich and poor is on ever increase.

Capitalism internationally has become one of the main hurdles in the path of the human growth worldwide. Pollution, waste of resources, loss of essential forests and global warming all show how the planet is abused by capitalism.

Women and kids come last in wealth and health. The needs of women and children come last in capitalism. Hundreds of thousands of kids die each day of avoidable poverty, yet somehow there's always money for wars and in these wars, rape is becoming a used as a weapon of destruction.

Workers of the world unite. Your struggle is our struggle. Globalisation means the working class is the greatest force on earth. Working people are now the majority of the population of the world and within this, women's numbers are more than significant more than half of industrial workers.

See also:


Home | Site Map | Calendar & Events | News Services | Links & Resources | Contact Us Us