May Day brings Christians and Muslims into the streets for workers' rights


On April 30, activists, both Christian and Muslim, staged at a rally in front of the Faisalabad Press Club on Wednesday, on the eve of International Workers' Day. Their goal was to push the government to calculate the real cost of living in Pakistan and ensure that workers get a "living wage rather than a minimum wage" so they can lead "a life of dignity," free from debts, bondage and violence. To do this, they want the government to ratify the International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions for the protection of domestic workers (ILO C -177) and extend social and legal protection coverage to workers engaged in informal sector.

The rally was organised by the PHD Foundation, the Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation (AWAM), Adara Samaji Behbood (ASB) and the Inter-religious Council for Peace and Human Rights as part of their 'living wage campaign'.

Protesters criticized the government's minimum wage policy, which is expected to raise incomes by US$ 10 per year. Beside, they want action against skyrocketing inflation and high energy prices. They also demand the government in Islamabad to take "tangible steps" to protect workers' rights and ensure a living wage for all. This is first time for this kind of labour action in the country.

With a population of more than 180 million people (97 per cent Muslim), Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world, the second largest Muslim nation after Indonesia. About 80 per cent of Muslims are Sunni, whilst Shias are 20 per cent. Hindus are 1.85 per cent, followed by Christians (1.6 per cent) and Sikhs (0.04 per cent).