KARACHI: The Sindh government’s labour department is about to issue a notification for increasing the minimum wage by Rs1,000.
The increase has come after an announcement made by the former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani on the International Labour Day on May 1. He had announced the minimum wage to be increased to Rs8,000 from Rs7,000. However, the Punjab government decided to go a step further and increase minimum salaries by Rs2,000, making the minimum salary Rs9,000, but the Sindh government stuck with the federal government’s announcement.
While talking to The Express Tribune Sindh Labour Minister Ameer Nawab said that the increase will be implemented in a few days and the revised monthly wage of Rs 8,000 will also applied in the private sector. “Ideally, the minimum wage should be equal to 10 grams of gold and the federal cabinet should think about it,” Nawab said.
Though the labour unions call it a good omen for the unskilled labour working in small industries but they say that the increase is “meagre”.
“A salary of Rs8,000 or Rs9,000 can’t cover the daily needs of the labourers,” said Nasir Mansoor, the deputy general secretary of National Trade Union Federation Pakistan (NTUFP). “The government should have considered the price hike and decrease in value of the Pakistan rupee before announcing such a small increment.”
Mansoor also criticised the minimum-wage system and said that it should be replaced with the ‘living-wage system’ since the other system had failed to fulfil the basic necessities of labourers. “You need at least Rs18,000 to live a life which is above the poverty line.”
Mansoor added that the labour laws are not even followed in most of the private firms.
“Over 90 per cent of the labour force in Karachi is associated with private industrial units but most of them do not even get Rs7,000,” he said. “Every industrial unit earns profits but the labourers are not given a share of them.”
The general secretary of All Pakistan Trade Union Federation, Farid Awan, called for the equal treatment of government and private workers. “If a grade-two government employee gets between Rs 12,000 and 13,000 and has social security, then the worker in a private factory should also be paid the same amount,” he said.
He corroborated Mansoor’s statement that most of the private factories did not follow the minimum-wage regulations and paid their employees between Rs5,000 and Rs6,000.
Sharafat Ali of Pakistan Institution of Labour Education and Research stressed on the need of issuing appointment letters to the labour force working in the private sector. “Most of the firms do not give appointment letters and hence, the workers can’t avail their social security or other rights.”
Talking about keeping a check on private industrial units for the implementation of wage regulations, labour minister Nawab said that the department made surprise visits to industries if they received any complaints. “There we check the factory records and ask the workers about their problem and try to fix them,” he said. “If the workers don’t tell us that they are not being paid enough then what can we do?”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 4th, 2012.