Back ground of brick kiln workers:
There are total 135 brick kilns in the District of Toba Tek Singh and 20 thousands workers are
working in them. Their economic and social conditions are very poor. The brick owners' behavior towards the workers is not
human or moral. They consider the workers their slaves and make them to do very hard work. The workers are working in the
same condition for many generations. The owners also trap the workers by giving loans so that they could not escape. They
never even try to improve the living conditions of the workers. The workers are deprived from the basic needs of life like
electricity, clean water, health and education.
Women at brick kilns:
Women suffer in all cases, especially in a country like Pakistan, where male domination is strong,
worse thing is that these women are not paid anything for their work, only the male members working the brick kiln get money
for the bricks made. This increases the dependency of the women on the men, and they further advantage of her alienation.
Worse is the fate of Disabled women. If any woman
is living in areas where brick kilns and these women are don’t have homes of their own but the homes belong to brick
kiln owners then the disabled women suffer more than others at the brick kilns. There is nobody to help them and on top of
it the brick kiln owners want them to work with the able bodied people and they do, to make matters worse these disabled women
are very often not paid for the work they do.
Role of Human Development Centre (HDC):
Human Development Centre took the initiative for these unfortunate people. Staff members of
HDC used to go in their communities. They had meetings with them. They told them how they are being victimized by the kiln
owners. They told them what their rights are and how to get them. They organized them in small community groups. The next
step was to prepare active leaders among them. The people were told that no body is going to change their conditions until
they won’t struggle for it. HDC played a vital role in mobilizing and educating brick kiln workers about their rights.
They were not aware what is the rate fixed by government. The efforts of Human Development Centre proved fruitful in District
Toba Tek Singh and brick kiln workers raised their voice for their rights finally. They were told how they can get their rights
in a peaceful manner. They were assured that Human Development Centre is always there to help them morally and if necessary,
Workers demanded their rights many times in District Toba Tek Singh and went on strikes. They
tried to convince their owners to increase their daily wages. In August 2002, the workers of Samundri road and Rajana (Toba
Tek Singh district) organized a strike. That time the wages were 110 rupees which was not enough for their daily needs. To fulfill their needs, they had
to take loans from the kiln owners. That increased the dependence of the workers
on the owners. The strike proved fruitful as the owners agreed to increase the wages and fixed it at 150 rupees on daily wage
basis (an increase of Rs. 40 per day. This was for the first time in Toba Tek Singh that the workers got so much per day.
It was a small achievement of kiln workers but a significant step in the lives of the workers. It helped them realize that
if they struggle together, they can get their rights.
In the meantime the cost of living went up and the workers needed a bigger wage than in the
past. The movement spread to other areas near Toba Tek Singh and the workers of different brick kilns went on strike. The
owners of chak No. 256 G/B Phaloor and of its surrounding areas fixed 160 rupees as daily wages due to the strike. Every worker
was getting 300 rupees more per week.
On January 14, 2005 in chak No. 331J/B and chak No. 330 J/B, workers of seven kilns Demanded for Rs. 200 daily wages but the owners refused to do so and in its reaction, the workers
went on strike. After two days the owners showed flexibility and agreed for 170 rupees per day. They also promised that if
Government will fix 200 rupees, they'll follow the government ruling. Now Rs. 160 and Rs 170 are fixed in almost 30 brick
kilns and a bare minimum of 150 rupees is fixed rate in all kilns of Toba Tek Singh and it all happened because of the unity
of kiln workers.
Struggle of a couple of years forced kiln owners to fulfill the workers demands. Now workers
are better organized and are more focused. They get 184 rupees per day, as fixed by the Government. The brick kiln owners
increased the rates of bricks from 1800 to 2000 but are not willing to increase the wages. . The owners are building up sky
high apartments by depriving the poor kiln worker and peasants by squeezing their blood.
Now the labor movement has taken one more step and widened its circle. Now they are demanding
to register the brick kilns. If that happens, the workers will have social security. Social security means education of children,
health, and shelter and of course death grant and marriage grants too. The kiln worker is not socially secure so he's not
getting these facilities.
The workers of Toba Tek Singh decided that they'll also struggle for the basic human rights
besides the issue of wages. They're trying to have the right of social security and the registration of brick kilns. They're
also working for the organization of kiln workers as they understand the need of organizing small units of workers and to
inform them about the labor laws so that the workers can struggle in a proper, effective and legal way for their rights.
My name is Javed Masih S/O Mahanga Masih, resident of Chak Kantha, Dalowal tehsil Samundri, district Faisalabad. I have four daughters and four sons. Two of them are married.
I couldn’t make my children study. I was working in a kiln in Pansra for
last three or four years. I used to work very hard but the pay was not enough. So I used to take loans from the brick kiln
owner for my daily requirements. Then one of my relative gave suggestion to me to work in the city. I left the kiln working
and shifted to Peermehal. My wife started working in people’s houses and I started working as a sweeper in Shadman colony,
Peermehal. Now we earn five thousand and five hundred monthly. I got admitted my younger children in a school and life is
much easier than before. But a month ago, the brick kiln owner sent some people and according to them I still have to return
eight thousands to the owner. I had returned him my entire loan. When I told them about that, they threatened me and tried
to take my children. Community people supported me a lot and try to convince the people and promised that they’ll help
me against the kiln owner.