05/09/2020 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) – Earlier this week, the New York Times highlighted the plight of Christian sewer workers in Pakistan. Following a Christian named Jamshed Eric from Karachi, the New York Times illustrated the oppression and suffering these Christians experience on a daily basis.
Due to widespread discrimination and religious intolerance, Pakistan’s Christian community is extremely overrepresented in this downcast workforce. Christians make up between 80% to 90% of the sanitation workforce, including the country’s sewer workers, street sweepers, and janitors. This percentage is an extreme overrepresentation as Pakistani Christians represent less than 2% of the country’s overall population.
As has been documented by International Christian Concern (ICC), this overrepresentation is due to discriminatory hiring practices. In many cases, job advertisements for sanitation positions, considered the lowest and filthiest, are reserved for non-Muslim applicants only. Reading between the lines, these jobs are often reserved for Christians specifically.
In addition to being relegated to the lowest and filthiest positions in the workforce, there are many other unseen abuses suffered by these Christian sanitation workers.
The government has transferred much of the management of the sanitation workforce to private contractors. These contractors do not hire sanitation workers to permanent positions but offer temporary contacts that only guarantee work for several months. Salaries are meager. Safety equipment is not provided. And to top it off, the health of the sanitation workers is not considered.
“I get 15,000 rupees ($91.00) per month and work for 12 hours a day,” Perveen Bibi, a Christian sanitation worker, recently told ICC. “However, we don’t get salaries on a monthly basis. It depends on the officer’s mood. Sometimes he pays us after two months, or it may even stretch to three months plus!”
“If we demand our pay and safety equipment, the officer just puts it on the government’s shoulders, and he does not take responsibility for it,” Bibi continued.
As temporary employees, the sanitation workers’ contacts expire every 88 days. They are then “rehired” every three months, again on temporary contracts. For many, this cycle goes on for decades until they are too feeble to work. No retirement benefits or pensions are offered. Sanitation workers get no days off, have no weekends, no holidays, and are not even allowed to take sick leave.