Resolution soon: Kaira


PPP Secretary Information Qamar Zaman Kaira on Wednesday assured the participants during a seminar that issue of industrial relation laws will be solved before the lapse of Industrial Relations Ordinance 2008 and a National Assembly session could be called for promulgation of such law before its expected expiration on March 17 this year. While speaking at a seminar titled ‘Need for Federal Mandate on Industrial Relation Laws’ organised by Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT), Kaira said it would have been impossible to reach some consensus in case of open debate on 18th constitutional amendment.
The thought behind it was to de-centralise the authority and delegation of powers to provinces, he said, adding these amendments could further be amended for addressing any other anomaly. Key Speakers included Qamar Zaman Kaira, Syed Haider Abbas Rizvi, Syed Sumsam Ali Bukhari, Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, Riaz Fatiana, Babar Sattar, Zahoor Awan and Ahmed Bilal Mehboob. The parliamentarians belonging to all major parties, representatives of workers and labour unions, media persons and civil society activists also participated in the session.
“This issue is not that simple to sort out,” said Syed Haider Abbas Rizvi. Talking about the 18th constitutional amendment, Rizvi said there were three views about it – firstly, it is harmful for national integrity; secondly, if someone raises his voice against the 18th amendment, he is considered against provincial autonomy; thirdly, whenever a huge constitutional amendment takes place, it is followed by many small amendments in federal and provincial laws and regulations.
While talking about the legal and constitutional aspects, Babar Sattar said Pakistan was under legal obligation to legislate for provision of labour rights under various international treaties. Furthermore, he opined, a federal law was also needed for industries which fall within the federal areas, and industries and unions that spread across two or more provinces.
He was of the view the parliament could simply promulgate a law for the above-stated purposes and if the legality of such a law is questioned, the courts could be appropriately assisted or the provincial assemblies explicitly delegate the authority to the federal government to legislate regarding minimum standards for labour welfare and trans-province trade unions. He said the object of the federal law should be delineated in such a manner that no one could think it was undermining the devolutionary spirit of 18th amendment.
Riaz Fatiana said it should be admitted that they committed an error by not facilitating open debate on the 18th amendment in house. As the federal government is responsible for international obligations, we could not minimise its role, he added. Syed Sumsam Bukhari credited the parliament for developing a consensus on the 18th amendment. Flaws could be there in the amendment but open debate should have been conducted in the parliament for amending the constitution, he averred.
Tariq Fazal Chaudhry said the 18th amendment had created a lot of confusion as different departments of health were under four different ministries.
Zahoor Awan believed the federal law constituted on industrial relations would not affect provincial autonomy. He said the issues of trade unionism, collective bargaining, workers’ participation in management, and harmonious resolution of employment disputes should be addressed by the federal legislation. He said Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah moved the bill in legislative assembly of India on trade unions which became Trade Union Act 1926. He said after abolition of concurrent list and approval of 18th amendment, all provincial assemblies pass their own industrial relation act which is applicable only in their own territory. He told there were 7,204 trade unions in 5,214 orgnisations in the country, and except 370 orgnisations all others were registered under provincial laws.
PFUJ President Pevaiz Shaukat said they had forwarded written suggestions to the parliamentary committee but they didn’t accommodate these suggestions. He said the 18th amendment destroyed labour unions and the future of federal unions was hanging in the air at the moment. Earlier Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, PILDAT Executive Director, said the 18th amendment was a milestone in our parliament history. It had a great impact on the constitution but such a huge change could bring some problems with it as well. If this amendment would have been given time for debate on floor of the house, some of the problems that they were facing facing today could have been minimised. There was no federal authority left which could regulate industrial relation laws or to fulfill international obligations, he concluded.