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Pakistani Christian Brick Kiln Workers Unpaid at Christmas

ICC Note

“If the workers will not be paid immediately; the families might be starved to death then the owners and government institutions will be responsible.”

By Ashfaq Fateh
12/28/2010 Pakistan (ANS)-Hundreds of poor Christian brick kiln workers were denied their wages before Christmas in Toba Tek Singh, a district in the Pakistani province of Punjab.

A Pakistani woman carts a pile of bricks at a brick kiln (Photo by Rajesh Sachar)
As a result, the deprived workers were not able to purchase food and warm clothes for their families at what was meant to be the happiest time of the year.

Munir Masih Gill, President of the Brick Kiln Workers Union told ANS-Pakistan, “There are over six hundred brick making factories in the District of Toba Tek Singh. At each factory, thirty to forty people work. Our union has made survey and found that ninety percent of the bric kmaking workers are Christians and these workers are exploited by the factory owners.

“Legally, these factories have to be registered with the government of Pakistan and they are bound to ensure the rights of workers including the payment of fixed wages. However, since the public institutions are weak and the local legislators are fighting with each other to gain power, the factory owners get the benefit of the situation and exploit the poor workers.”

Mr. Gill went on to state, “Workers have now launched a movement to ensure social security rights and government fixed wages. The government has fixed Rupees518 (US$6.16) per thousand units of bricks, however there is not a single brick making factory that has paid the government fixed wages to these workers. Generally Rupees250 (US#2.97) is paid to the workers.”

The workers have been demanding the fixed wages for their work. They staged sit in and protest marches and have also held press conferences.

The brick kiln workers stage a protest
The District Coordination Officer, Aman ulla Khan, organized a workers and owners meeting to settle the issue. The factory owners agreed to pay the fixed wages in front of the District Coordination Officer.

However, when the Christian kiln workers demanded to pay their wages for the work they have done so they may celebrate Christmas, the factory owners refused to pay.

Tariq Mahmood, District General Secretary of the Labour Party Pakistan (LPP) told ANS that more than twenty factory owners have not paid the Christian workers their wages. When, the workers asked the reasons for nonpayment of their work they were told that it was because they had protested against them on the streets and also in front of District Coordination Officer?

ANS has discovered that the owners made fun of the workers asked them to receive their wages from the District Coordination Officer who one of them said, “Is the champion and custodian of their rights.”
Tariq condemned the act of factory owners who he said had “deprived the suffering Christian workers who faced hunger and troubles on the occasion of Christmas.”

Baba Talib, a kiln workers leader told ANS, “Factory owners want to weaken our movement of fixed wages and other rights under the labor laws. But the workers are determined to achieve their goals.”

He added, “If the workers will not be paid immediately; the families might be starved to death then the owners and government institutions will be responsible.”

ANS has found a growing violation of workers’ rights in the district of Toba Tek Singh and since percent workers belong to Christianity, they are discriminated doubly; one as a worker and second for their faith in Jesus Christ.”