Trade union leaders have welcomed the Industrial Relations Ordinance 2011 but called for changes to strengthen the law, according to a press release issued by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).
The new ordinance was reviewed at a meeting organised by the HRCP that was attended by major labour leaders such as Khurshid Ahmad, Mohammad Yaqub, Yusuf Baloch and Altaf Baloch.
The participants welcomed the ordinance for providing for trade union activities and the resolution of industrial disputes in the federal capital and for facilitating the registration and functioning of trans-provincial trade unions.
But they also voiced concern about some provisions of the law and urged the government to note the Supreme Court ruling on the post-Eighteenth Amendment situation and to meet the objection to its authority to legislate for trans-provincial unions.
They also urged the government to ensure it complies with international obligations such as ILO Convention 87.
The labour leaders said that there was a need for legislation to cover the rights of workers in the informal sector, which has grown much bigger than the formal sector. The unionisation of agriculture workers should be encouraged, they said.
1) Remove the bar on formation of general trade unions in an industry when workers are serving many employers
2) Include PIA security staff and Pakistan Security Printing Corporation or Security Papers Limited employees in the ambit of the law
3) In the definition of “lock-out”, the workers and employers should be placed on the same footing
4) The definition of “business” should include “industry-wide trade unions having membership in more than one province”
5) Drop the condition that each establishment must have two trade unions
6) The provision that if a trade union has 5,000 members or more in more than one province the term of the collective bargaining agency shall be increased from two to three years is welcome. Other office-bearers in such trade unions should also get three-year terms
7) Delete Section 11(5), which states that the registration of a union shall be cancelled if any officer is elected in violation of Section 18, as it is an unjust provision
8) The government must consult the chairman of the National Industrial Relations Commission when appointing the registrar for trade unions in each industry. The authority to appoint presiding officers of labour courts should be transferred from the government to the superior judiciary.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th, 2011.