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Protecting Rights of Working Class

Protecting Rights of Working Class

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Published by: Muradani on Jul 24, 2009
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07/02/2010

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PROTECTING RIGHTS OF WORKING CLASS Allah Nawaz Samoo

The rights of working class depend on and relate to moral and ethic values of a society. The civilized societies protect their working citizens against odds of exploitation through concrete, clear and coherent rules and regulations. Besides, they also develop an institutional mechanism for accountability in the case if these regulations are violated. Working under protection of ‘rule of law’ even in privatized sector gives a sense of security and satisfaction. However, presently, notes a report of UN commission on the legal empowerment of the poor, ‘two in every three people on the planet - some 4 billion in totals—are excluded from the rule of law.’ These are the people who work hard and make significant contributions to the rapid growth and innovations of modern world. However, their work is not recognized, recorded, protected, regularized and regarded by the public authorities. This process of exclusion begins with the lack of official recognition of their birth: around 40 percent of the developing world's five-year-old children are not registered as even existing. Later, at different stages of life, they are being denied of adequate, fair and equal work opportunities and right to survive with freedom and dignity. The exclusion from rule of law deprives them of access to protection against arbitrary dismissal, work abuse, work-hazards and economic, physical and psychological exploitation. They can not get benefit of available regulations and policies on hiring and firing, working time and essential safety nets. They also can not avail opportunities to gain and retain new skills, to enhance competencies and to earn more with growing experience. Consequently, this class which constitutes half of human population remains mired in poverty and servitude. Unfortunately, fight against poverty in last five decades has missed the point of worker’s rights, liberty and dignity. It could not continue the momentum of key legislations achieved as a result of workers movement over the period of past three centuries. In 18 th and 19th centuries, working class succeeded in building up strong anti-slavery lobby in and around Europe. Lord Mansfield, a judge in Britain in 1772, ruled that ‘a runaway slave could not be forced back by his master.’ The ruling created fears that Britain might try to abolish slavery in its colonies. However, slaves and ‘villeins’- families owing labour to their lords particularly at harvest season, continued to exist in England until 1800, in France until 1789, in Prussia until 1815 , Austro-Hungary until 1848, in United States until 1865 and in Spanish-owned Cuba until 1886. They were housed, fed, clothed, but not paid. Though brutally mistreated, slaves were not cheap. In 1753 ‘a slave on the Gold Coast (now Ghana) cost 16 pound and in the West Indies he would fetch 35 pound. In 19th century, the price was mostly paid in goods, cloths, liquors, iron bars and guns. The slave traders made fortunes and invested in booming business of land and property during industrial revolution. Working class faced new forms of exploitation in the aftermath of industrial revolution. The ‘statute of artificer’ in 1563 regulated the supply and code of conduct of labour and laid down 14 hours of work a day with 2 hours for meal breaks. However, factory-owners

in Britain took nearly 300 years to adopt it reluctantly in 1820. They fought off with full strength the ‘ten hours movement’ of 1830 until the law forced their hand in 1847. Karl Marx highlights that approach of ‘capitalist development of wealth’ as ‘Pauperism’ in which ‘with the same capital a greater mass of labour power is possible, as capitalist replaces skilled workers by less skilled, mature by immature, and adults by young persons or even children…..so that they become means of domination and exploitation. They (capitalist) transform their (workers) life-time into working-time and drag their wives and children beneath the wheel of the juggernaut of capital.’ The proponents of hyper-individualistic capitalism in new millennium have invented subtle and tactical forms of worker’s exploitation, more dangerous and disastrous than what was feared by Marx in 1848. Instead of using a full time, regular workforce based in a single and large workplace or factory, big giant now prefer, to decentralize production and reorganize work by forming more flexible and specialized production units. As part of cost-cutting measures, they operate with small core of wage employees with clear terms and conditions and a growing periphery of ‘non-standard’ or ‘atypical’ workers in different types of workplaces scattered over different locations of different countries. These periphery workers are not recognized under law and therefore work without having any entitlement to legal and social protection. They are rarely able to organize and have no voice to make their work recognized and protected. They get less and sometimes are being deliberately trapped in indebt-cycle. This so called ‘institutional arrangement’ is based on the understanding that labour is a market commodity which can be exchanged, traded and disposed of at convenience without having any moral conviction. It can be used as mechanism for creating new resources, but not for distribution of income and prosperity. The heads of states in 2005 World Summit ‘resolved to make the goals of full and productive employment and decent work for all.’ The vision of decent work implies to have fundamental rights at work, beside employment and income opportunities, social protection, social security and social dialogue. In addition to that ‘decent work agenda’ was taken as a ‘central objective of national and international development strategies including poverty reduction strategies.’ Yet the ignominious reality of today’s advanced and prosperous world is that half of its people are ‘excluded’ and mired in poverty and in modified forms of servitude. At different conferences the world leaders and corporate giants have invented a range of mind-boggling lexicons to euphemistically putting them in the boxes of ‘informal economy’, ‘child labour’ ‘Bonded Labour’ ‘ Women labour’ ‘domestic work’ ‘rightsizing’ ‘down-sizing’ ‘out-sourcing’ ‘contracting and subcontracting.’ However, when it comes to act, it seems as if the poor and indebted states have conveniently relinquished their authority and responsibility to conglomerates and cartels of trans-national giants. As a reaction, society is drifting towards fragmentation with emergence of non-state factors of anarchy and violence. nsamoo@gmail.com

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