Iqbal used to wonder what ‘better working conditions’ meant. Now he knows

Iqbal is now working in much cleaner, safer conditions
Iqbal has always considered himself privileged to work in the local fan plant; most of his friends are unemployed or find only occasional work. But when he first came to work in the plant, he was given a range of tasks, which he has performed in very poor or even dangerous conditions. For example when he worked in the painting area, he was given only a scarf to protect his nose and mouth while he sprayed the toxic paint onto the fan blades and bodies.

About two years ago Imran heard the owner talking with international and national experts. They were explaining that if he could achieve a CE mark he would be able to sell the fans not only in the Gulf or in African markets, but also in Europe.

Shortly afterwards a contractor came to install an insulated room on the shop floor for a modern painting line. Imran was told that he and his workmates would be trained to operate the new machinery.

He also noticed that the contractor had started to re-organize other areas of the shop floor. The experts would walk around the shop floor rather a lot with his bosses, talking about things like better controls and quality, less scrap. They even talked about better conditions for the workers.

Iqbal wondered what that meant.

Little by little, improvements were introduced. Imran and his workmates were told to “put your tools in order”, to keep their work areas clean, to put the scrap in the designated containers. Machines were moved, the fans started to be assembled more quickly, and the workers were trained to use the machines safely.

The bosses were in good spirits too. The reject- and waste-rate was down so they could sell at more competitive prices. Orders were up.

Today Iqbal enjoys his work very much. No longer is he exposed to the intense and toxic fumes of the paint. He feels much better and gets up happily for work. He smiles when he sees the little stamp on the fan she helps produce. He hope that as his fans are sold more in high-end markets he and his workmates will reap one more benefit: a salary increase or bonuses.

Fact Box

The objective of the EU-funded Trade-Related Technical Assistance Programme (TRTA) is to support sustainable development and poverty reduction in Pakistan by promoting economic integration and stimulating decent employment opportunities though increased exports.

Contributions and Aim:
The budget is €12.5 million for a period of November 2009 to May 2016.
The TRTA- II programme has three complementary components

- Component 1 is building capacity within the MoC to formulate trade policies and to participate proactively in trade negotiations.

- Component 2 is strengthening the quality and conformity of products with international standards and compliance requirements, with a particular focus on selected exports (fisheries, horticulture and industrial products).

- Component 3: is working to strengthen the Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) regime in Pakistan and improve the protection of IPRs, thereby enhancing the business and investment climate in the country.

Through these components the project will also contribute to poverty reduction, gender equality, improved governance and social, environmental and work standards.

“It was mainly a lot of small changes but the shop floor became a nicer place to work”, said Iqbal.

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