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26 May 2020

Sabrina Toppa, The Guardian

Pakistan: As garment workers protest to demand wages, police shoot and threaten them

"Fast fashion: Pakistan garment workers fight for rights amid Covid-19 crisis", 27 May 2020

Police in Karachi last week allegedly shot at hundreds of unarmed garment workers protesting outside a factory supplying denim for global fashion brands.

...The workers were chanting slogans demanding better conditions and wages when police arrived. Closures and job losses and the suspension of the normal holiday bonus, which enables rural migrants to travel home before the Eid holiday marking the end of Ramadan, had left many of the demonstrators close to despair.

...Across Pakistan, thousands of garment workers are battling against forced layoffs and months of unpaid salaries, as the deepening economic crisis caused by Covid-19 hits workers’ ability to support their families in the world’s fifth most populous country. The textile and apparel industry is Pakistan’s second largest employer after agriculture. Nearly 9% of Pakistan’s GDP – and almost 70% of the country’s exports – comes from the industry.

In March, Prime Minister Imran Khan urged companies not to fire workers during the lockdown, stressing that millions of labourers were at higher risk of dying from hunger than from Covid-19. Sindh province issued directives prohibiting worker layoffs and creating an emergency fund for labourers...

...In Lahore, hundreds of garment workers were reported to have organised a strike last week against the non-payment of salaries at multiple factories and activists claim factory owners are treating workers as expendable commodities...