As with all countries, Pakistan has its unique challenges when it comes to ensuring that business enterprises respect human rights in the workplace. The workshop provided great insight as to the complexities of these challenges and provided some specific actions that can be initiated in order to address them.
The outcomes of the workshop were:
- A common understanding of supply chain issues with regard to labour rights.
- Suggestions on how to better implement international labour laws already ratified by the Pakistan government.
- Established and further strengthened linkages between key stakeholders who can work collectively to improving working conditions.
- Suggestions for how the Local Resources Network can become a network for facilitating better engagement between local and international actors in Pakistani supply chains.
Pakistan’s compliance with human rights standards
While the General Scheme of Preferences (GSP+) programme has created a new platform for stakeholders to drive improvements towards more responsible business practices across social, environmental and governance indicators, progress is slow, and is hampered by legacy issues at institutional, policy and implementation levels.
As detailed in our country briefing (for members only), there are major challenges it comes to freedom of association and collective bargaining, child labour, discrimination, HSE and corruption. In addition, 70% of the workforce are engaged in the informal sector, and are therefore largely not covered by legislation that does exist to protect workers’ rights.
Unfortunately, many global brands appear to have been frightened off, and it was clear from the warm welcome we received, and the dynamic and forward-looking dialogues we took part in, that stakeholders were keen to engage with business partners to secure solutions to these challenges and to help Pakistani business realise its ambition of becoming a global player in key industries, particularly textiles.
Key messages from panelists:
- Justice Ali Nawaz Chowhan, chair of the relatively new Human Rights Commission in Pakistan, was excited by the idea of spearheading a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights.
- Rizwan Mushtaq is the manager of a local textile company that has committed itself to ethical trade practices. He was open about the challenges. He recognised that local companies have a long way to go to improve the way workers are treated and he also recognised the limited bargaining power local factories have with global brands. But he has a desire to establish more of a partnership with brands and retailers, rather than simply having to meet their compliance requirements.
- Dr Karamat Ali of PILER spoke of his vision to organise 15,000 textile workers under a single, powerful industrial union with the capacity to negotiate collective bargaining agreements and uniting the industry across all provinces of the country.
- Khursheed Ahmed, General Secretary of the Pakistan Workers Federation, spoke of the tireless efforts of the trade union movement to challenge exploitative practices and poor wages.
- And, Justice Majida Razvi, Chair of the Sindh Human Rights Commission, a long-standing gender activist and Pakistan representative to the UN Commission on the Status of Women spoke of her vision for a multi-stakeholder forum that could help workers to have jobs that respected their dignity – particularly young people and women, who often make up the most vulnerable informal workers.
Next steps for LRN
- Support the development of a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights for Pakistan.
- Continue to build our global platform of local stakeholders with particular focus on Pakistan for June
- Run a webinar to facilitate dialogue between partners globally in July
- Promote good practice from Pakistan in 2016
We will be running a similar event in Turkey this autumn - follow us on Twitter @LRN_network for updates!
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