Amending labor laws necessary to spur industrialization

Karachi: Speakers of a moot here Sunday stressed the need of amending the labor laws to improve them for betterment of labor force, boosting of industrialization and reduction of poverty in Pakistan.

They were speaking at a two-day training workshop was arranged by IndusrtiALL Global Union on the topic of Collective Bargaining Trends in Labor Laws at the Home Based Women Worker Center (HBWWC) Karachi, presided over byIndusrtiALL 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 labor laws to make them more worker-friendly

Joint Director Sindh Labor Department Gulfam Nabi Memon said presently in Pakistan all labor 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 labor 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 labor unions of their respective workplaces.

He further said that in past in the case of bankruptcy of any factory or company, their banks would recover their dues first and the dues of workers are not properly paid. He said now we have added a new section to SIRA that in case of bankruptcy the due of workers would 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 previously was with the federal government that 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 said we have also added a section that we would collect this fund ourselves. He said the labor 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 labor inspectors about labor laws.

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 labor 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 labors 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 labor 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 labors.

At the end of the two-day training workshop the representative of IndusrtiALL Global Union Tanveer Nazeer distributed certificates amongst the workshop participants.