Amending labour laws necessary to spur industrialisation


Speakers of a moot on Sunday stressed the need for amending labour laws to improve them for the betterment of the labour force, boosting industrialisation and reducing poverty in Pakistan.

They were speaking at a two-day training workshop arranged by IndusrtiALL Global Union on the topic of Collective Bargaining Trends in Labour Laws at the Home Based Women Worker Centre (HBWWC) Karachi, presided over by IndusrtiALL Global Union Pakistan Council Secretary Imran Ali.

National Trade Union Federation Deputy General Secretary Nasir Mansoor spoke on the aims and objects of the moot. He said there is a dire need to revise and amend labour laws to make them more worker-friendly

Joint Director Sindh Labour Department Gulfam Nabi Memon said presently in Pakistan all labour laws are inherited from the British India and they are 68 years old. He said after the passage of 18th amendment in the year 2011 the provinces have got the right to enact laws as per their local requirements. He said Sindh was the first province where under the SIRA2013 the workers related to agriculture and fisheries got the right to make their unions. This was the first step to bring the non-traditional labour sector closer to the traditional sector. He said to increase the role of women in trade union a section was added to SIRA to include women in trade union office bearers. Now the women workers would have a proportionate representation in the labour unions of their respective workplaces.

He further said that, in the past in case of bankruptcy being suffered by any factory or company, the banks would recover their dues first, and the dues of workers were not paid properly. He said now we have added a new section to SIRA that in case of bankruptcy the dues of workers would be paid on top priority. He said we have further improved the definition of ‘worker’. A section is added to the Standing Order which said that a contract worker would not be required to do manufacturing jobs. Moreover, permanent and contract workers would enjoy same privileges.  He said presently this law is not enacted but we hope that it would go enacted within two to three months, which would be a great achievement.

About the Workers Welfare Fund he said that this fund was previously with the federal government, which used to issue proportionate grants to the provinces. “We have merged Workers Welfare Fund and Workers Welfare Board and a law is enacted for its practical implementation. Now the related issues would be sorted out by the federal and provincial governments,” he informed. “We have also added a section that we would collect this fund ourselves. The labour department has been facing many problems. Our biggest drawback is that we do not have trained manpower. In this regard we have to recruit new inspectors and also train the present labour inspectors about labour laws,” he added.

NTUF President Rafiq Baloch said according to the article 17 of the constitution of Pakistan all the citizens of Pakistan have the right to make their unions and association without any discrimination. Under this article, the workers have also the right to form any trade union as per law. They have the right to join any trade union of their own choice in their workplace or industry. However, it is required that a worker could not join more than one trade union. If he joins another trade union, his membership of the previous union would stand cancelled.

Home-based Women Workers Federation general secretary Zahra Khan speaking to the third session on trade unions said trade union is a word of English language. It is combination of two words: trade or profession or business and union or association or gathering or joining. She said in the presence of a trade union the factory owners cannot take unilateral decisions, and instead consult with the union. A trade union or labour union is an association or gathering of workers that safeguards the rights of its members through their representatives. They ensure better wages, better work hours, health and safety, canteen, legal protection of employment and other rights of their members.

According to the Industrial Relations Act (IRA) the basic object of forming trade unions is to determine the terms and conditions of the relations of employees and employers, workers and owners to run a trade or business. He said a trade union is an organization of labours that are formed on permanent basis, working for safeguarding the social, economic and political rights of their members. They work collectively or as a group. Trade unions are of two types: local trade unions or industry-wise trade unions and the modes of their registration are also different.

IndusrtiALL Pakistan Council secretary Imran Ali speaking in the conclusion session told about how workers could seek a remedy if the labour laws are not be implemented or any excesses meted out to workers.

The workshop also prepared a comprehensive action plan for realizing the rights of labours.