Pakistan’s government is failing to enforce laws that could protect millions of garment workers from serious labor rights abuses, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.
The 73-page report, “‘No Room to Bargain’: Unfair and Abusive Labor Practices in Pakistan,” documents a range of violations in Pakistan’s garment factories. They include a failure to pay minimum wages and pensions, suppression of independent labor unions, forced overtime, insufficient breaks, and disregarded regulations requiring paid maternity and medical leave. Human Rights Watch also identified problems in the government’s labor inspection system. Pakistan authorities should revamp labor inspections and systematically hold factories accountable for abuses. Domestic and international apparel brands should take more effective measures to prevent and correct labor rights abuses in the factories that produce clothing for them.
Some of the larger factories in Pakistan, which are part of the organized sector of the industry, supply international apparel brands. But most garment factories in Pakistan cater to the domestic market, with the work carried out in small unregistered workshops in unmarked buildings that escape labor 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 labor 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.
Labor rights activists described union-busting by many large factories. Factory managers often keep workers on short-term contracts to discourage their participation in union activities. Workers also alleged that factory owners manipulate the labor law to create obsta
cles to register trade unions. Several factories register fake or “yellow” unions consisting of chosen or non-existent employees, making it close to impossible for workers to register real unions.
Source: Human Rights Watch