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The Killid Group
No rights for Balkh labourWritten by Said Zahir Adily
Sunday, 01 January 2012 15:30
Working conditions for workers, particularly in the construction industry, in Balkh province has become an issue of serious concern.
Hikmatullah Qurban, head of the Balkh Labour Union, says workers who are mainly from rural areas, are exploited by employers who provide neither minimum wages nor safety equipment. Accidents, even fatalities, are common.
"No government department has recorded injuries and death figures of workers. Neither the Balkh Labour Union nor department of labour, social affairs, martyrs and disabled have accurate figures of injured and dead workers in Balkh," he said.
President Hamid Karzai has signed into law legislation on workers' rights approved by parliament. But the government has not set up an agency to monitor the implementation, according to the labour leader.
Abdul Qadir Khan, manager of finance and administration in the department of labor, social affairs, martyrs and disabled, said since the law is not "binding or obligatory" it is not implemented by the private sector.
Qadir Khan describes a Catch 22 situation. "When employers feel no one will question them for not implementing workers' rights, and when there is no punitive action for flouting the labour law, they can ignore the law," he said. "Equally, workers are not aware there is a law that gives them rights and do not put pressure on the employers," he added.
Saifullah who has serious back injuries and was forced to stay in bed for six months, said he was carrying a heavy load at work when he injured himself. "My employer did not give me compensation. He ignored my pleas saying 'You are to blame! You should have been more careful'."
Saifullah says for the six months he was bedridden he was helped out by friends and family. "I had no money to pay for anything for my family," he said.
Another worker Joma Khan said most workers have no idea that it is their employers' responsibility to provide a safe working environment and to take care of them when they are injured. "If the employer is kind he will give you one day's salary or take you to hospital," he said. "However, most employers are apathetic and indifferent. They are not bothered."