Labour laws should be implemented strictly in the country, urged trade union leaders, employers’ representatives, legal experts and civil society activists on Monday.
They were gathered at a two-day National Labour Conference on ‘Labour Laws and Judiciary: Current Challenges and Opportunities,’ organised by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) at the Piler Centre.
They decried the state of confusion following the expiry of the Industrial Relations Act 2008 on April 30 this year as there has been no measure since then to provide an alternative law to the workers to access institutions of justice.
The prime minister, in his first speech, announced a raise in minimum wages to Rs6,000 but most industries never implemented it. This year, the government has increased minimum wages to Rs7,000 but employers have yet to comply.
Today, almost 80 per cent of the workers are excluded from labour laws, said Adviser to Sindh Chief Minister Sharmila Farooqui.
President Muttahida Labour Federation Gul Rahman Khan said that Employees Old Age Benefit Institution and Workers Welfare Board are not spending funds on workers. “Instead, these funds are being spent on projects, such as construction of roads,” he added.
Chairman Workers Employees Bilateral Council of Pakistan Ehsanullah Khan pointed out that the government never consulted stakeholders before fixing minimum wages. According to him, the local industry is facing limitations due to artificial competition created by the industries of friendly countries as they get subsidies, produce cheaper products and export them to Pakistan, an option not available to Pakistani industries. “Local production is only 40 per cent, where as 60 per cent goods are being smuggled in,” he said, “If the government announces a policy to control smuggling and illegal import of products, the employers can pay between Rs8,500 to Rs10,000 monthly to their workers.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 29th, 2010.