May 2020: Khalid Mahmood, Labour Education Foundation (LEF) and IFWEA Executive Member, Pakistan
Where are you working at the moment?
Since the lockdown began in Pakistan, I have been working from home. I go to the office only in the case of some very urgent matters which cannot be dealt with from home.
Has your work been strongly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic?
Yes, our work has been strongly impacted.
How has it been impacted?
We cannot organise activities with workers such as meetings and training, we cannot hold sessions in communities or offer legal support. But we have started relief work for workers who have lost jobs due to COVID-19. For relief work we have organised meetings online and have involved community activists.
How have you managed these changes?
We have been doing a weekly staff meeting on Zoom and are using WhatsApp groups for regular communication with staff. We have been doing work on reports and proposals from home and have also helped workers to register online for the relief package offered by government.
What are the challenges?
Our biggest challenge is the unavailability of smart phones for the majority of workers, and also that data is not easy to buy for workers. Especially for women workers, the smart phone option is very unlikely due to economic and some social conditions as well. The lack of understanding on how to use platforms such as Zoom is also a challenge.
Does this change the way you operate and plan, and how? What are you doing differently?
We have started holding meetings and awareness sessions with workers online wherever it is possible. This has been a new learning for us and for workers as well. Off course the number is not very large, but we hope that with some workers we will be able to continue our activities.
Can you give us some examples of positive aspects of your work at the moment? Are there good things that have happened?
Learning more online skills within our team and with some trade union activists is surely a very positive thing. We have noticed that workers are also very interested to learn online skills, but due to non-availability of smart phones and data it is a problem.
However, we have no problems with our online meetings with team members. We also conducted an online seminar on International Workers Day, in which more than 300 participated from Pakistan and from some other countries as well.
What advice and support do you have for others?
Trying new technology is not that difficult as it seems. We must try to involve workers in learning new things as the time requires. It takes some effort in the beginning but it is not impossible. We need dedicated team members to build capacity workers on mobile applications use. All capacity building can be done online.