Livestreamed on this page on Thursday 11 June 2020 at 8 a.m. PDT (San Francisco, UTC -7) / 11 a.m. EDT (New York, UTC -4) / 16:00 BEST (London, UTC +1) / 17:00 CEST (Ghent, UTC +2) / 20:00 PKT (Islamabad, UTC +5).
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School of Resistance—Episode Three: Distributing Dignity
Global Supply Chains and Human Rights. A dialogue with Zehra Khan (Pakistan) and Nasir Mansoor (Pakistan) hosted by Eline Banken
NTGent presented School of Resistance - Episode Three livestreamed on the global, commons-based, peer produced HowlRound TV network at howlround.tv on Thursday 11 June 2020 at 8 a.m. PDT (San Francisco, UTC -7) / 11 a.m. EDT (New York, UTC -4) / 16:00 BEST (London, UTC +1) / 17:00 CEST (Ghent, UTC +2) / 20:00 PKT (Islamabad, UTC +5).
During the Covid-19 outbreak, our patterns of globalised production and consumption became undeniably visible: the halt of the global economy shows how co-dependent the lives of our global society have become. In the case of textile workers in Pakistan and Bangladesh, these interdependencies have brutal consequences: due to a stop in garment production, workers lost their jobs, without any compensation. Trade unions are distributing relief supplies to thousands of workers' families to fight hunger and provide first aid in case of illness for at least the next month. This situation is one of the symptoms of the current human rights crisis in global capitalism.
In the third episode of School of Resistance, realised with the support of medico international, the Pakistani trade unionists Zehra Khan and Nasir Mansoor will discuss the current living and working situation of textile workers in Pakistan and the global production and supply chains of what we call “global economy”: how is it really functioning? And how can it be changed?
Zehra Khan is a political activist and committed feminist. She is General Secretary of the Home Based Women’s Workers Federation (HBWWF). Her union organises women who work either as homeworkers or in informal employment in textile companies, the packaging industry, weaving mills, carpet and jewellery production and the manufacture of footballs.
Nasir Mansoor is a political activist since his student days at Karachi University, where he participated in the resistance against the long-time military dictator Zial ul-Haq. As the Deputy General Secretary of the National Trade Union Federation, Pakistan (NTUF), he mainly defends the rights of Pakistani textile workers.
The School of Resistance is a discourse format with experts on change from around the world: artists, activists, politicians and philosophers.
On 20 April 2020, the price of oil fell below zero for the first time in history. It was not the only world record caused by Covid-19. In only a few months a malicious virus succeeded in doing what worldwide protest marches and general strikes could not: slowing down our planet. Correction: slowing down all human activities on this planet. Suddenly we as a society remember the importance of "economy" as a way to support life and not to make profit at any price.
But how can we shape the future of our planet without falling back into old, destructive patterns? In order to solve the problems we face today and to find valuable alternatives for the future, the School of Resistance creates a platform of experts on change around the world: artists, activists, politicians and philosophers. The IIPM continues together with NTGent its work on the contradictions of the global economy: using the means of activism and art, the aim is to create a blueprint for a politics of resistance. The debate series consists of a bi-weekly livestream and will be concluded with an event in February 2021 at the Akademie der Künste, Berlin.
A project of IIPM and NTGent, in cooperation with Akademie der Künste, Berlin, medico international, Merve Verlag, European Alternatives, Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia, COINCIDENCIA – Kulturaustausch Schweiz-Südamerika and funded by Kulturstiftung des Bundes.
The fourth episode will be live-streamed on Thursday, June 25, 18:00 (CET). Starting from the killing of George Floyd, this episode will look deeper into racial injustice and violence inflicted by the state police and border patrol agents along the European borders.
The livestream takes place every two weeks on Thursdays at 18:00 (CET), smaller time shifts are possible depending on the residence of the guests and will be announced.
[A pre-recorded video plays.]
Nasir Mansoor: Comrades! We are celebrating 134th Labor Day in very critical situation. where the whole humanity is suffering from pandemic. Coronavirus pandemic has effected millions of people which has endangered not only the survival of mankind but has also destroyed the economy. Millions have become jobless and billions have been effected economically. In the current situation, the world wide healthcare system has failed to save humanity. Likewise economic system has also collapsed. Due to this, around 12 million people of Pakistan especially skilled workers are estimated to be jobless within three to four months, which at present is about 6 million. Government has failed to provide health facilities and to provide testing kits. Moreover, it has also failed to provide protection health care workers fighting the virus. Despite of government workers are either being dismissed from their jobs or not being given their pay. State Bank has facilitated industrialists by agreeing to provide a 3% loan from which they can pay three months worth of salaries. Capitalists have refused to even take the loan. Under these circumstances, it falls upon the workers to fight the virus. Themselves and to struggle against all facets of capitalism found in our society. It is our demand that health care facilities be free internationally and that a plan to provide job security to workers worldwide be devised, stopping their dismissals and the stopping of their pay Today we call upon all the workers of the world, our history bears witness that to get through plagues, and pandemics of the past, drastic changes have occurred. Which is why we think that with the end of this pandemic, chances of the end of capitalism are also on the horizon. Long Live Workers Struggle. Long Live International Unity of Workers.
[The video ends.]
Eline Banken: Good evening everybody. My name is in Eline Banken, and I welcome you to the third episode of the School of Resistance. A project by IIPM, NTGent, academic instability. MediCo International and funded by A school of resistance is a bi weekly livestream format, that tries to create an online think tank on change with experts in resistance. The live stream takes the fallout of the global economy caused by COVID-19 as a starting point and an entry to think about possible solutions and alternatives to security crisis might be advised. To do so we invite experts, on change and resistance from all over the world. For this episode entitled Distributing Dignity, Global Supply Chains and Human Rights, we invited political activists, Nasir Mansoor and Zehra Khan. I am very happy and very honored as well, to welcome the both of you, Zehra and Nasir.
Nasir: Thank you.
Eline: Thank you very much for joining me in this conversation tonight, but let me properly introduce you first. Our first guest, is Zehra Khan. She's a political activist and a committed feminist. She's the general secretary of the home based women's workers Federation. That's a union that organizes women who work either as homeworkers or in informal employment, in textile companies, to packaging, weaving Mills, carpets tool production and the manufacturing of footballs and next to Zehra is our second guest, which is Nasir Mansoor who has been a political activist already, since his student days at Karachi University, where he participated in resistance against the long term military dictator Zia-Ul-Haq and being the deputy general secretary of the National Trade Union Federation Pakistan, Nasir, mainly defends the rights of the Pakistani and textile workers. That also brings us to the topic of this episode, mainly the current working and living situation of textile workers in Pakistan and the current status of the global production and supply chains of what we call, our global economy. Because more than anything, COVID-19 illustrated the patterns of our global production and also our co dependence to the lives of our global society had become. In countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh, these interdependencies have devastating consequences with thousands of workers that have lost their jobs and are suffering from the effects the Human Rights crisis has and it has been raging for such a long time in our global capitalist system. Before we start this conversation, I quickly want to remind you of the possibility to enter into this conversation. We can do that by asking questions, either by sending them to our email address, @schoolofresistance By commenting on the live stream on Facebook or via Twitter, by using the hashtag #SchoolofResistance, I will take on most of them probably at the end of the livestream, but I will also try to them to present them to my guests, throughout the conversation. Maybe it's a good way to start by reflecting on what he saw on what we saw on what we started to open with, because that was a speech that Nasir gave on the occasion of the International Worker's Day and we already quickly touched upon the crisis in Pakistan that is happening now, but I think it might be good if we could start and open this conversation. by sketching out the scope and the gravity of the current situation of the government workers in Pakistan, because in the text you wrote Nasir, for the occasion of this debate, you mentioned that more than 6 million workers, have already lost their jobs and that economists expect this number to rise to more than 17 million in the next, coming of these weeks months. Could you perhaps contextualize this numbers of job losses of other labor violation, that are happening in Pakistan today and he comment on the main causes that lie behind them?
Nasir: First thing you for invite me sometime is a very rare opportunity that people from South End speak with the international on that kind of forums where we can rid our vices and it's good that we have good comrades and friends and the network. The louder the voices, what we see they will give us a louder dimension and louder impact in our societies, where there is a lot of consumers. So, I can share it with that, what is happening at the moment and we have a double kind of effect. Before the Corona, there was in 2019, there was an agreement with the IMF In July 2019, which forced Pakistani government, to make some drastic changes in their economies and which has helped a lot on the workers. The first thing was that, they have to redraw all the subsidies to the textile and garment sector. It called a zero rating system. It was withdrawn. So, it means that now, after that there was a lot of pressure on the textile garments because they are getting the electricity and gases on a very high prices, that was the crisis with the textile and garment and all effect on the other sector also. The other one was that Pakistani currency was slash, the value of currency was depreciated for more than 30% to 35%. So, it means that actual wages of the worker, will decrease around 50% and then there the withdrawal of a state subsidy on all the outings, so it will increase our daily use item from 40 to 50%. There was a charging on electricity and gas charges increased about a 50 to 200%, medicines increase about to 300%. So, it was a drastic effect on working workers and on ordinary peoples. So, even when we were talking about it, we were discussing that one and there was a crisis in the industry. Then the Corona virus crisis, come in the month of January and the government was very mad. They are very conservative and they don't care about it. They tenders, it is nothing. It is for only Europe. It is only for the countries where there is a cold and a country like Pakistan where temperature is more than 40 degrees Celsius, so it can't affect us and then they don't care about what, medical experts, trade union people, conscious people always tell them that, that is a big problem. So, you should not follow British and Americans or Iranians. You have to look into it. How the Vietnam and other countries they have look into the things. So, they always gave us the example of the British there is no problem, but when there is a problem is started, then they get a new excuse. Now there is a more than 100,000 positive cases, out of which 200 workers, 2000 people died. The very unfortunate thing is that, in last three months, only 1000 people died and the last 10 days in June 1000 work people died. So, it's multiplying now. So, the effect is very strong on textile and garment. There was a lockdown and allowed on because of the lockdown. As I told about that, around the six 6 million workers have been retrenched on the job. Out of it 70% of textile and garments. Textile and garment, there's around $27 billion, each year we fetch as a foreign exchange, through our textile and garment. So it means that there's a totally collapse. Nothing is happening over there. Our order has been canceled. The brands have withdrawn all their orders and every day we are getting a new set of workers who are retrenched from their factories and departments. So, the government announced that, trillions of Pakistani rupees, as a compensation, as a package to the industry and industrial, especially for the textile and garment, but they have announced for the workers, but they don't give it to the workers. Workers didn't get out of it, anything. So, I think that because of IMF policies and now it's because of the Corona. We are totally industries at the verge of collapse and our own policies, IMF policies and international brands have withdrawn all of their facilities. You see, H&M has given out $500,000 to WHO. Yeah, to show them to people that, that company is a very much... They are talking about social responsibility and they want to show that they have the human face, but in the ground, the factories, where they get their productions, they are retrenching workers. Just in one factory, 15,000 workers have been retrenched within that period of Corona and the lockdown and in the one factory there was a firing of the workers and the case was destroyed against the workers and workers were arrested and they were sent to the jail and now today we get to know that, they were now bailed out from the jail, but the cases of them against them and the FIR, a First Information Report, to the police was, put in a way that they would see names and 800 or no names of the workers. So, anyone can put it and everybody, this is that if you talk about union about your rights, about your wages, or about your bonuses, they will put their name on unknown worker, whoever attend. So the police will arrest them. So that's some kind of a fear they are putting on the workers and a number of factories, which are producing for H&M, Levi's, mango, Adidas, Inditex all these in the factories, these kinds of happening everyday, somewhere we get to know about it. In majority of factories, we don't know about it, because workers don't know about their rights at the moment. So that is a big and huge problem over here in Pakistan, especially in the textile and garment. I am just talking about, the problem inside the factories. They're somehow the workers are visible, their employers are visible. They're on a tight round about, in a supply chain, where there's a problem where the invisible workers are there. So I think that there is a big issue at the moment in Pakistan and it's will be an everyday thing. Today is budget day, i Pakistan. Government is going to announce their budget annual budget and there's a no remaining for the workers. So, they everybody employers say that they don't have money, so they can't pay to the workers, but the workers says that, they have lost their jobs, They are lost in losing their livelihoods. So, they need government subsidies and help, but the government don't have any plan about it, but they are using their days and the Corona against the workers. Two days ago, a 9500 workers from Pakistan exchange rate has been retained by the government and yesterday 11,000 workers, majority of them 90% have been there. They were returned from their jobs and they were recruited by the UNICEF, recruited by the WHO and they have retained their workers, at a time when the government have ordinance, a new special law that, no worker can be retrenched and unpaid, during the lockdown, but you see that as you enter bodies who are the sister organization ILO and ILO says about workers right and number of things, but these are UNICEF and WHO are also, doing whatever the private sector employers are doing with the workers. That is the worst condition and we are looking into it next time, If you ask question, I will let you know, how could we move it with them and how catching the need of the workers
Eline: Yeah, yeah, you already briefly touched upon it. Like the supply chains. There's a big problem and that the consequences are now severely visible in countries, as Pakistan but also Bangladesh and affected they are so much effected by catastrophes that happen in China, but also decisions that are made by big international, private industries in places like Europe, for instance, shows how entangled our lives have become, yet a big part of the world doesn't, or it doesn't seem to be familiar, or rather doesn't want to be familiar with the story behind the T shirts they sell. I heard this phrase once, if you follow the production chain of a big multinational brand, you're likely to end up in the hole ... in the house of a home based woman worker and that made me wonder Zehra, if you could perhaps explain to us a bit, how these supply chains usually work in the global textile industry, what countries Pakistan is connected to, for instance, but also particularly the share of these willing workers in the garment production, that are so important but are very invisible.
Zehra Khan: Yes. Like global supply, we are saying that the supply chain is the way for the employers or the industrialists. It's the way to reduce the cost or paying the less to the workers and getting the more and more benefit. So, they use all the platform which they have, they can go to. So, the women are majority of women who are engaged with the sector. So, you can say that the garment industry is rapidly shifting from formal work or informal work. So, there is two kind of work. Like in factory which is the formal work, but it is also becoming the informal. So now workers are higher on the third party system and even though on the contract basis, so, many workers are working on the piece rate not on the salary. So, in the second second sector, is the boom based sector, or the informal sector, in which the mystic workers, in cultural workers, hawkers, all these people come in the informal sectors, but I will talk about more about from these workers, because we are organizing them. Like we are saying that in Pakistan, there are 20 million informal workers, are engaged with different sector and how to fish well women, women workers in there. So, are Pakistani normally can say, it's mainly dominated by the informal sector. As you can say that 70 to 75% are the informal workers. Total of our workforce. Like we have the workforce of 65 million, so majority, like 70% are the informal workers. They are doing different kinds of work and not only in textile but also the other sectors as well. So, most women in Pakistan are part of the informal economy, or low reach labor market, because they are getting the less payment and even they are not access to the Social Security narrative, meaning they don't have any protection. During Corona, it's multiplied. Their misery is multiplied. So, that's how the informal supply chain works here. Like the brand work. The brand is located in one country and they are producing or taking...
Eline: I see that there's something wrong with your connection. Zehra you seem to be falling out for a while.
Nasir: All Yeah. Mobile calls, sometimes always interrupt. May I ask?
Eline: Do you want to say something, Nasir?
Nasir: She’s in the other room. May I help her?
Eline: Well, maybe she can... If wait, let's see. If it's not reacting now we can, maybe just go to the next question and then see how she will get back and will be able to join us. So yeah, say that was actually also kind of in the middle of the talking about the textile and apparel industry in Pakistan, is it's like a second largest employer after agriculture. A study by the Human Rights Watch, estimated at almost 38% of the manufacturing labor force, is working in the garment industry, yet garment workers have struggled more than anyone in in unionizing in connecting with each other and Nasir you work for the deputy... As Deputy General Secretary for the National Trade Union Federation Pakistan. So, connecting these people and making sure their voices are heard, is something that you've been fighting for, for a long time already. Could you maybe explain why it is that, these garment workers experience such difficulties in unionizing and what the obstacles are, that they have to overcome in doing so and how your work is also helping them.
Nasir: First I want to clear it. When we talk about textile and garment, then is the 38%, but if we talked about our cotton related, in factory cotton from whole supply chain, from cotton field to the factory, so it's more than 60% total workers, including cotton fields, the workers who are over there and we are going to also organize them in a supply chain, because if the workers in a cotton field, they are not producing cotton without the slavery, without bonded labor, so how could the cloth really clean? So that's why we are raising that question, that supply chain should be more dependent, to the not just the factories, but also to the cotton fields. So that is one thing. So you talked about unionization in textile and garment. I think that less than 1% workers are organized in textile and garment. So it's a very unfortunate and is a very pessimistic numbers. It's because in majority of factories, especially in textile and garment, workers don't have written contracts. So, if you want to register the worker, the requirement of the registration that anybody can show that he or she is employed with that factory. If the workers don't have the appointment letter, they can't register themselves with the... as a union labor factories So that is one problem. The other big problem is that, workers are not only a 5% workers are registered with a social security and pension schemes and there is also a problem that, employers just pay the fee of a contribution of a worker, but the card they get from the Social Security Institute, it was not given to the workers, the company, keep it with them and just gave you the the institute, Social Security institute that get the money and they don't care about that card bill should go to the workers. So, that is another problem. So, I think that in that context, we are taking a new initiative. We have tried to ask the government and legislate, try to make a legislation with the government that there should be a sectoral unions, just like in a Europe. In Pakistan, there is no sectoral union, every factory have a union and that union only ever negotiation of a collective bargaining for that factory, not for the whole sectors. So, if we have a union up for a whole sector, it will resolve the problem, but it need legislation on it and we started to work on it, but now the condition is that, because even after the agreement with the IMF, there was a lot of resentment in the workers and workers were very much angry on it, but now, before the Corona, there was a problem that, we always motivate the people, motivate the workers, mobilize the workers, to come for their rights, on the demonstration or activities, but this is a new phenomenon Pakistan and this new phenomena is that, the workers have, punished tendency. Themselves, they are coming out of the factories, first they protest inside the factory, then they get out of the factory. They go do the Press Clubs, and open on the... They block the routes. That is the new phenomena. It was in 1969, when all over the work day workers left the movement and students movement was there in 1960. The same was in Pakistan, the workers and the students, they come up in the fact in huge numbers, against the state and now again is the new phenomena, that the workers are coming out everywhere. They don't have union, no problem. They are very much now as angry, violent and militant, but they have not, unified actions. They are separated action, but the same kind of action, because the Labor Department is not doing for them anything. The local system to resolve the mechanism, don't resolve their issues. That's why they are going to the street and demand street justice. So, number of factories, in number of factories workers get their right, after they are cornered on, of the factories, they are picketing on the partner of the factory. So they force the employer to accept their demands. So, that is a new phenomenon and I think that it will be a culminated and a new kind of labor movement, is more than a trade union movement, is it would be our informal way of a trade union, because formal way of a trade union, has failed, because in a tripartite mechanism, whatever they have agreed to do it, they don't accept it. The employer sit with us, they agree with us, just like they agree with us that in the long term, all worker will get their salaries, or no worker will be retrenched. We force the government to give them some kind of incentive. to State Bank of Pakistan given a key person earning just 3% interest loan for five to six years. At a time when there was interest rate was 13% The government is giving to the employer on the 3%. So, but they get the money, they get all the benefits, but they don't want to give to the worker whatever they have discussed and agreed in a tripartite mechanism. So, that is a frustration and people are taking a new way to cope with the situation and we are as a trade union, we are going with them, we involve with them, to channelize their activities everywhere. So first time is that in the last three months, the National Trade Union Federation become a focal and a pivotal point for the workers, wherever they are fighting, we are with them. That is a new era for us in the labor movement in Pakistan.
Eline: Yes, because I also read that, of course, the Corona lockdown confronted is always challenges, such as the question of how these demonstrations, or how protest can take place now, with social distancing, for instance and last month, NTUF did organize a demonstration, but that one was met with oppression and with violence by the police and we maybe...
Nasir: Yeah, I'll let you. It was not organized by us, but our comrades who work in that factory, they were in it, yeah. So it was a spontaneous reaction of the workers. It was denim clothing, which is producing for H&M, Inditex and H&M and Zara. So in that factory, they have retrenched 50,000 workers, from their eight units, yeah and the remaining, they don't want to give them a bonus, which is due on Eid festival. So, there was a frustration in the workers and workers get out of the factory and they organize a peaceful demonstration, then there was a firing on the workers and the workers were after Eid, they have filed a one case with the police and they arrested the workers, that was the case, but it has flared up the problem, so when there was a firing and then when there was workers were arrested, the employer was also becoming fearful. They think that there was a retaliation. So there was a indirectly in a background, there was pressure from the government and also pressure from the other employers, that, that was a not good thing and anything can be happens. That's why number of factories after that firing, workers were paid their salaries and also their bonuses and they were very much fearful, that there might be a retaliation from the workers. So we have also going to file a complaint with our international partners. With the H&M that in their factories, they are getting work in a very slaverish, in just workers work under innocently just like slaves, in the factories.
Eline: Yes, it's sad to see that Zehra has left us again, but I'm pretty sure that she's trying to get in again, but let's just move on and see when she's back then we can continue our talk with her as well, but I'm also wondering because, as you say there of course, you already mentioned it, right in the beginning, of this, these big apparel brands, canceling orders, violating labor regulations and laws and I think I can say that there is this intuitive logic, that big companies have an obligation to ensure that the workers rights and their supply chains are protected. That's also what several organizations and campaigns and trade unions, are fighting for, are pleading for and that companies should show solidarity and responsibility with their workers, but perhaps solidarity alone is not enough and what we need is political action, by international trade unions, but also by regulations supported by the EU governments. What are your thoughts and hopes, when it comes to reorganizing the industry, Nasir?
Nasir: Yeah, one thing is that, you see Pakistan signed a number of global framework agreements. Pakistan have a GSP plus mechanism with the European Union. Pakistan have signed and ratified a 38 ILO conventions. Yeah, so number of conventions are there, but still, there is no practical purposes, all of it. So, it means that on a paper things are very good and when they are in a negotiation table, internationally and locally, employers and number of these big organization, they are very polite and pro workers are a human rights, but in a practice, they don't have anything, any mechanism for it, just like industrial global union ever, global framework agreements with the different brands, but there is no mechanism about it. How do we go for complaint system? The same is with the GSP plus. Pakistan get a GSP plus status with the European Union and there is a zero duty on a Pakistani, for going to Europe, but there is no mechanism for it. There is 29 points, including labor rights in it, but everywhere there is a violation and nobody's cared about it and partners don't have any mechanism to how to make a complaint and there is no monitoring system. So that's why we think that there needs a new kind of watch dog, with a very active people and not only a workers. but the people's participation. Conscious people's participation. The worker from different political spectrum, Social Democrats, greens, left communists, all anarchists, all come together, because the problem is in the south is that, we are not that strong. We are not that strong to raise our voices. We need political dimension of opinions and that dimension in Europe, we need some kind of voices, who can raise our voices who are there. So, we think that our problem is a global one. Is our trust order problem, because the whole capital is moving from... Come from a north to south and south to north and then again north. So if the problem and the money and the capital, is from all the global and the Problem is a global one. So we have to look into a globally, otherwise we never resolve the issue. Number of times, number of examples we have when we act unitedly from north and south, we get a result, just like a the enterprise factory. There was a problem in Pakistan, 2260 worker died and we raised our voices then in a Germany, human rights trade unions and peoples and workers right organization, collaborate with us, cooperate with us, we put a dent and we put up pressure on a cake and we get number of compensation from them. It's still, way short of our expectation, but it was a beginning data in a history of ILO. We are first time get a compensation, through a ILO convention on a compensation. So in that context, we can say that, international solidarity in India for Corona and after Corona. It will play a very, very significant role. Just like in your America you see that, peoples are coming out when a Black boy was... Died because of something, police brutality, we're using these symbols in Pakistan also. That the same kind of, we're not taking, we're not giving us a chance to be... People use that slogan. So, it means that things are becoming a global one and the oppression is the same with different degrees. So in that concept, we think that, we should look into very seriously about it, otherwise, in assault we can't survive in that way, if we don't ever resist and our friends in the north.
Eline: Yeah. Thank you. I also quickly saw that Zehra was also able to join again. So perhaps if... I don't know if she's able to...
Zehra: Yes, I can hear you.
Eline: Yes and is your camera working as well, or?
Zehra: No, I don't think so, it's working.
Eline: Yeah, okay, then we'll just try it like this. It's fine.
Eline: Maybe, it's a question actually, that we got from the people watching us, but it also connects to what you said Nasir, of the fact that we need this global and this political action, but there's a question from a viewer, who asked what he or she can do as a consumer, "Should I as a consumer buy a T shirt from H&M or shouldn't I do that?" I don't know if you can answer to this Zehra, or if you Nasir, that's up to you.
Nasir: I think that is not the answer. If you don't buy a thing, it means that somewhere someone lost their job, yeah? But you can see that, you can say that, you have a voice that you can say that, this cloth which is you're buying, it should be produced in an environment, where the safety of the workers in the first and workers get some kind of a decent wage. That, you can say that and that can happen and we can do it. It's not not buying, is not resolve the issue. I think that from workers perspective, we think that we should ask them, if they respect ILO conventions, they respect Pakistani law, in theory, they should respect them in the practice and it's not impossible for them, because if they give for one T shirt, they will double the price, double the wage of the worker, it will be a point five, point 50 cent, yeah. So it is no problem for the consumer. Even no problem for their profit. So, why the workers salary are registered, so low. So we can say that, just like gentlemen say that, in 2019 the agenda will give decent wages, to living wage all the workers in their supply chain. He has committed but the H&M didn't do that. So, I think that it is a possible that we get our social security workers we get a pension, workers will get a living wage and even the the profit of the supplier and profit of the brand will not affect. So, yeah, I think that consumer can play a very important role in this question.
Zehra: Yes, I will too agree with the comrade Nasir, that our people need job firstly. So, consumer, we can use the consumer as a pressure groups, to pressurize the brand and even EU government and other government that, from where they are getting their merchandise, they should follow the rules and laws and regulations. So, that will be later for us.
Eline: Yes. Yeah, very clear, thank you. Maybe Zehra I noted your back, because you were talking actually about, the women in the informal industry and their share in the garment and textile production. Could you maybe continue where you left the discussion about their share and their importance in the whole industry?
Zehra: Yes, I think were elected. I think I have to start in an other way, like our garment industry is rapidly shifting, from formal to informal work including homes. So aware local and international, both workers, are work is going on. So, the women in Pakistan are traditionally, basically a skilled one. They specialize in sewing and embroidery and the skill passed down from one generation to another to another and now their work is going in textile, especially in stitching departments. This also means that the share of the women in garment or the value added product or the work is increasing. Similarly, if the work is being transported to home, they are being provided work at home by the third party contract system or the contractors or the middlemen. So, which is of very low value, such as like cropping a button, buttoning on the shirt or embroidery work or the work of the bed sheet, holding the bed sheet, sides of the bed sheet. It is not visible yet, but you can see that the homeless workers are coming into supply chain, they are linked with some brand, locally or internationally, but it's not visible because, we don't have any data or any research on it. So, there is a lot of work we have to do on this collective data, like I give one example, that our members are engaged with the WWF work, it's a brand, WWF and they are stitching school bags for the childrens in Africa. When one reporter came to us and she did interview with the home base workers and she printed the article in the newspaper, which is publishing in African country in one of the African country. So, the members getting phoned, from their employers, from middlemen, also from contractor, that you have lied about us and we are not giving you work. So, that's how we find that supply chain, that our members are engaged with the WWF in Africa. In the same way, in secondary, you can say that the owner is working through contractor who are linked with the workers outside of the factory. So, there is one proof that... So, there is no proof that their work is done outside the factory. That need of profit drive employers, to a place where they have more advantage or benefits. That is why in government where there is a value added work and sitting work, you can say, there are women they hire, a lot of women, simply they are now seeing that, if where the profit is working from the home, so they shift the work from factory to home. I'd like we have an example of the support groups, like football, many football teachers are working at home in small sitting units in and garment industries fully, you can say that the women are engaged as contract workers in factories as well on the and even in home. So they are not getting paid, betterly, or you can say that is up to the minimum wage of which we the province have. So, this is the issue which they are facing and the workers, especially the women workers are facing this.
[Eline begins speaking but audio does not play.]
Zehra: Hello. Hello. Hello.
Eline: I am sorry, it was my mistake. I'm sorry. Now you can hear me, yeah. Everything is fine. Yeah, okay, great. Zehra to quickly go back and also to maybe reflect a bit on your work, as I also asked about Nasir and his resisting, or helping these voices of this garment workers hurt. A couple of years ago, the home based Women Workers Federation managed to get a local policy, addressing the rights of the homeworkers legalized by the state, which was a huge sting, because it was the first time that the rights of the homeeworkers had been legally addressed, but reading on the labor violations that are still happening today, yeah made me somehow realize, that the Pakistan government who should be accountable for these labor violations much to happen are failing to do so and knowing that almost 70% of the country's export comes from the garment industry, one would expect the government to take care of it, but they are it seems... It seems they're handing over the industry, to the first of these big profits, brands in the global north. How does this happen? Has it always been like this, or is it a trend that has been reinforced, by new liberals thinking of the last decades?
Zehra: Yes, in new liberal policies, the privatization is the main way that the government is supplying to curtail the rights of trading unions basically. So the informal workers work is also increased and that needed to be organized these home based workers, because the majority are the women in the home based sector. So, that's why we went to these women and organize them and asked them to come and sit in one place and then we started circle in training with these workers and we made them aware that if, they will not come out from their home, or they will not organize themselves in a union or in a group or a pressure group, the state will not give anything. So, they understand, the old women understand this. So, we came out from home to support. So that's how we are able to get some relief from the government. Like you said, that it's the first time in the history of Pakistan that one province has ratified or you can say that the quick rise of home based workers is legal. So now in Sindh province, all the home based workers, either they are women or men, they all are considered now as a worker and they will get the benefit, which is written in the labor law. So, that's how we are working here in Pakistan and we are still hopeful that... Like, we have many things on the pipeline, but because of the Corona virus, it's stopped many things. Like our council is still we didn't... the garment institution announced the Council, which has the main role that they will collect the data of home based workers in one province. That how many home based workers are existence in and with which sector? So we can clearly say, because we don't have the data, so we can't say anything. What we have seen is just an estimation, about the workers, formal workers or about the informal workers. That's just an estimation, because we don't have the data. So, that's why we are asking for the data, to go on with. For the formal workers as well and for the informal workers as well. So, but the thing is that like... like to say that the Labor Department is also working with employers. So it's very difficult to work or to understand all the mechanisms. So, the thing which we did here is that, we due to our activism, we become the part of the tripartite mechanism. So, first time the informal workers become the part of all the tripartite mechanism which we had in Singh. Like we are sitting in the labor standing committee and its work is that you have... We have that right and we can formulate a new law or amend the law. Even we are sitting in the minimum wage board, like I am the member of... Now I'm the member of the minimum wage board as well. So, we have also working on the minimum wage for these workers as well.
Eline: Yes, thank you.
Nasir: I want to share a thing that—
Eline: I think again, if you wanted to say something Nasir?
Nasir: Yeah. I said that there is one side of it is a trade union side or labor side of that economic side of the whole dimension of this supply chain. The other one is a political dimension of it and because of Corona, now our demands which were a blur, before the Corona, now become more visible and more acceptable to the ordinary people in the public, just like when the state say that, Pakistan is a security state and the Pakistani state have, their borders are not safe and that they are the enemy of the Pakistan, so that we need a huge budget for the defense and when we say that we need education, health and do make a much more money on it and the Corona was there. So at that time, the doctors and the health system was able to work the whole health system was flat. So we demanded from the government that, in a new budget, there would be a equal amount for health and education, as equal to the defense budget. Before that, we were saying for the cancellation of international, all the debts, if nobody care about us, but now the Government of Pakistan itself, along with a topia and many other countries, they are also demanding that one and today, their loan word default for one month, one year, but we see that after the cancellation of the loan, that is another one thing, the most important thing was that from the workers perspective, we were saying that there would be, there should be, there must be, universalization of Health and Social Security system and now the government is looking into it and how good they will do it. Though, that is the way. And for all these designation, whatever we are thinking about Corona as a political statement, we demonstration for everything and then we have written a pamphlet and it was event of 70,000 was outsold, to give you the different people. So we have made our commitment with a political perspective to the people that we are not just for our live work, we have given our lives to the 550 to five 5000 families immediately after the corona spread and then from our own interior platform and with the other Flint rockiest organization we give 50,000 families, a one month ration to them and also contribute some money with the Pakistan's medical prime Medical Association, doctors and the para Medical Association. We work with them around the 150,000 pamphlets we distributed, we have pasted up banners and number of things in different industrial zones. Whenever there's a problem with the workers, workers will come to us and we resolve the problem, with the Labor Department and we will go to the court. We'll also find a constitutional petition in a higher court about the rights of workers by right of livelihood and right of their wages. So in that context, we are working on different dimensions. The another dimension is this one. We are talking with you as an international issue. We are making it the thing that, it will not be resolved if we don't have a international dimension of that. One and that dimension is a very vital and very important and the very decisive, because the crisis is a global one.
Eline: Yes, yes. I will say... Hear that... If maybe some of you could mute yourself? Because there's that feedback. So if I... Could maybe... I don’t… Oh, it's over. Okay, that's perfect. Thank you. So I've got a question and it connects again to the first one actually. So, the question of whether or not as a consumer, we should buy clothes whether or not from H&M or no, but here's a question from somebody asking, if there are any labels that we can use to recognize fair working conditions. Are there brands that work globally, that can serve as an example and things we can go to as an alternative. Maybe if some of you wants to answer to this. Nasir, Zehra?
Nasir: Sorry, I don't understand.
Eline: No, problem.
Zehra: Your voice echoing.
Eline: I’ll ask it again. I'll ask it once more. So it's a question by somebody from the audience, asking if there are labels that we can use, that we can depend on and that show us that the working conditions have been respected. That these working conditions in which these T-shirts or these garments have been produced, are just, were human and he's also wondering if there are brands that work globally, that can serve as a as an example. Brands we should look for when going shopping and things that we know that are better, cleaner more sustainable than other ones.
Nasir: I can't mention a single brand. We're getting the merchandise from South and they are very much working to respect labor standards. So, it needs a long way to do it, because they are used to cheat the consumers. It's not a fault of the consumers, but they show to them that they have the global trademark agreement. They have a social responsibility on Facebook or on their website, they see that they respect all these things and the problem is that there could be the consumer and the producer, the workers in the supply chain, they don't ever link with each other. That's why the brands and the suppliers are cheating the workers and the brands are cheating to the consumers. So we need a very strong connection with the consumers and the workers in our supply chain. That will expose the wrong doing of the suppliers and the banks. So, I think that for the decades they are doing in the same practice, they are just like social auditing, they get audit from some repute organization and show the people that, okay, all things are very good over here. Yeah? So, these social auditing are the private one and they are getting money from the buyers and suppliers, so they gave whatever they want, get it. So we think we have to understand their tools to cheat consumers. So we can avail the consumer about it and we can resolve the issue if the consumer have a consciousness about it and they know the tactics of the plants. How to hide their ugly faces. So we can we purchase the things, but we ask them the questions and we didn't shoot back then.
Eline: Yes. Maybe a very... Question to both of you actually, to wrap this conversation up. As this conversation has showed and as he has been saying, like several of these labor violations, that are happening now, had already been happening long before the outbreak of COVID-19. For instance, talking about the fact that a lot of the garment workers don't have a contract with the factories they're working for, which makes them of course very vulnerable, because they lack any sort of social protection, but also like the lack of safety measures, the protection the health measures. Optimists might say that these crises that had been going on already for a long time, are now laid bare somehow because of COVID-19. Besides, you also see people gathering and unionizing. So these are... Can be signs that change is already, or somehow very slowly on its way and that connects to this common held idea of that out of times of crises actual change and can grow and without minimizing the devastating effects of the situation of all these people that are working in the garment industry today. I am wondering what you think the outcome of this crisis will be and if you think that COVID-19 will be able to somehow demand every organization of the garment industry and also enforce this responsibility of those people that should take responsibility, like the big brands and... Do you, are somehow optimistic that this can happen due to the outbreak?
[Zehra tries to speak but is inaudible.]
Nasir: Zehra, would you talk? Zehra, would you answer?
Eline: I think that Zehra has responded to us she has a very bad signal and it's not working. So it would be good if you can do it.
Nasir: Would you hear me? [Nasir briefly becomes inaudible.] Would you hear me? Would you hear me?
Nasir: Okay. So I think that what is happening at the moment, how the workers and the people are reacting about the fear of estates, especially I talked with Pakistan protect perspective. The Pakistani state failed to protect workers and on every occasion. So that this government comes with a very much fanfare, but they every day there is a crisis. So, in Corona crisis, now the workers are on the road, they are protesting and they are raising the issues for which we have been asking them, for the two, four or five decades, we are working asking the workers about it. Now, workers themselves they are saying that things and they are more radical than us, they are much more open, they are much more in a... You can say that in a demonstration and a protest. so, I think that the same institution in India, the same institution in Bangladesh and other countries, so, I think that new material conditions are emerging. At the time we are facing all the crisis and there is unemployment, livelihood has gone, but at the same time the workers have now much more and the people are much more, inclined to listen a political solution of the thing. So I think that after Corona, during the Coronavirus and after the Coronavirus, the movement will take a new leap and it is a launching pad for a new era for us and especially I think that in Pakistan, we have new ways and a new again, I don't say that is an opportunity, but it's a material condition, which is open and no parties, the managing parties, they are least bothered about workers and the people's issue. That's why people are looking for a new alternate, a political dimension and a political organization, other than the existing political parties, who don't care about the workers and the people. So the same I think that the international issue is there. So I think that in Corona, we have some material conditions and a prerequisite. So have a new kind of a gene, which is a social one and it will drastically change the way of life and also change the state of the people and behavior peoples thinking towards the states and they come to know that these are the states which have reasonably failed to dissolve the people's issue at the time of virus.
Nasir: Yes, I didn't mean to , Like we we can work in three level. Like the necessity impacts and we have the many moves on which we can gather or organize the workers to demand for they're just right. So we need a global alliance as well. First thing is that and we need also global laws. Like we have raised and have raised the issue of value effective buyer. So, you who is now preparing a new law that if the brand is going anywhere in the world, they should be, follow the rule of what is passed in the EU or European Union or any other country. So, we have to ask now the global laws and we need the global components like all the employees have the one platform, like IMF and World Bank, Britain moving organisation and other organization and they are thinking on what how they will get the benefit from all these kinds of things. So ,I think the workers should also need some kind of a platform. If we raise the voice from here, then you can also, all the workers from other countrIES can also raise the voice. So it's I think we have to... Have you have been either join the struggle on one issue or two issue like we are taking one issue as a contractor. We don't need any contract system anymore. So one action should be taken at global level. So I think this kind of strategy we can go for it also, then maybe we can achieve a lot of things.
Eline: Thank you very much. I'm watching at my time, and I'm afraid we've come to the end of this livestream. I want to thank you. I want to take my two beautiful guests, Nasir Masnsoor, Zehra Khan for being here with me tonight for teaching us on the problematic situation of the garment production in Pakistan today, but also and mainly for your inspirational thoughts and ideas on how to make the current system more sustainable and more just for the future. Then the only... Today, June 25, at 6pm, and connecting to the tragic murder of George Floyd and the growing worldwide resistance against it, we will look deeper into racial injustice and violence inflicted by state police and border control agents along the European borders. So thank you all once more. Nasir and Zehra for being here with me tonight, and I hope you all see... I hope to see you all again within two weeks. Thank you.
Zehra: Okay, thank you.
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