New labour laws passed by the Sindh provincial parliament on April 15 extend trade union rights to agricultural and fisheries workers for the first time in 60 years.
This breakthrough came after extensive lobbying by IUF affiliates and the IUF Pakistan office to ensure that draft provincial legislation was extended to include agricultural workers. In response to these efforts the Sindh employers’ federation agreed to a joint recommendation to parliament.
The new law will have a far-reaching impact in Sindh which has the highest rate of landlessness in Pakistan, with more than 40% of agricultural land controlled by powerful feudal land owners. It also provides an opportunity to organize and free 1.3 million bonded agricultural labourers in Sindh. The national law abolishing bonded labour in 1992 was ineffective largely because organizing was illegal – until now.
In the country’s three other provinces (Punjab, Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtoonkhua) new trade union laws do not extend rights to agricultural workers. Agriculture accounts for 44% of total employment in Pakistan.