KARACHI: Trade unions and labour activists have welcomed the Supreme Court's verdict stating that contractual workers have a legitimate and fundamental right to form or join labour unions.
A joint statement issued on Saturday by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research executive director Karamat Ali, National Trade Union Federation secretary-general Nasir Mansoor, Home-based Women Workers Federation general secretary Zehra Khan and others underlined the need to implement the order in all corporate sectors of the country.
In an appeal by the Sui Southern Gas Company against the Islamabad High Court verdict, the apex court's Justice Maqbool Baqar, heading a two-member bench, stated that the contract between the company and their purported labour contractors could not be allowed to be used as a device to deprive workers of their legitimate and fundamental right to form or join a union. The labour leaders asserted that since the introduction of neo-liberal economic policies in the country, companies had taken to hiring their workers on contractual and third-party systems, depriving them of their legal and constitutional rights.
The statement added that several companies, both nationalised and private, tend to hire employees on a contractual basis to distance them from their basic rights.
"The Supreme Court's judgment will set precedence and strengthen the trade union movement in the country," the statement read, lauding the verdict.
Out of a total workforce of 65.5 million in Pakistan, only 2 to 3 per cent workers are members of trade unions, while an overwhelming majority of workers are stripped of their legal rights of social security, pensions and unionisation.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2020.