Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani unveiled a Labour Day surprise for workers on Tuesday by increasing the minimum wage from Rs7,000 to Rs8,000 and revising pensions by up to 20%.
The good news didn’t end there. Labourers can now expect to get up to Rs500,000 from the government in case of death – which is more than thrice as much than their previous entitlement. Similarly, they can claim up to Rs100,000 for their children’s weddings, or Rs30,000 more than they were getting earlier.
He also directed the ministry concerned to announce Labour Policy 2012 and Implementation Commission of Industrial Relations Act (IRA-2012).
The prime minister made these announcements at a May Day function held at the Convention Centre in Islamabad. He put down the measures to his Pakistan Peoples Party’s status as “a party of labourers and workers” that understood workers and strove always to work for their rights.
Some elements, however, “do not like our love for the labour community,” Premier Gilani said. According to him, the founding chairperson of PPP Zulfikar Ali Bhutto “sacrificed his life while fighting for the rights of labourers” and that is why the labour community loved him.
The prime minister reeled off a list of his government’s achievements to illustrate how far it had gone to improve their condition. These include the restoration of labour rights, IRA-2012, Labour Appellate Tribunals, Labour Policy 2010, reinstatement of over 6,000 sacked government employees, as well as the right of appeal to government servants in labour courts.
Gilani pointed out that the PPP-led government had pioneered the move to make workers shareholders in several institutions and distributed shares worth Rs100 billion among half a million workers. Other steps such as nomination of workers in the board of directors of the institutions will further empower the working classes, he added.
Long march threat
Separately, Premier Gilani issued a veiled warning to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) which is planning to lead a ‘long march’ towards Islamabad to press the prime minister to step down.
Speaking in a television programme ‘Prime Minister Online’, jointly telecast by PTV and Samaa TV, Gilani said the PML-N move could be considered ‘treason’ as it would be a step of the provincial government against the federal government. “It is totally unacceptable.”
Referring to the attitude of the PML-N leaders, he said they had no principles. The PML-N and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf are making statements without any justification against the PPP, he added.
“I have full support of all the coalition partners and the long march will not be supported by other political parties,” he said.
The prime minister said if the PML-N was in a hurry for new polls then it should respect the decision of the Supreme Court and hold the local bodies elections. He promised that elections would be held on time and the government was not feeling any threat from the parties in opposition even if they get together.
Asked about his previous statement to quit if he was sentenced, the prime minister said although a sentence was a sentence his previous remarks were made before consultation with his lawyer.
‘Right of appeal’
Answering a question, Gilani said he had never said that he did not trust the judiciary, but as happens all over the world, he should be given the opportunity to follow due process of law.
The prime minister said before the Supreme Court decision, he and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan decided to meet and discuss the issue of appointment of new chief election commissioner.
“But now Chaudhry Nisar refuses to discuss the issue saying that he does not recognise him as prime minister,” he added.
He said as the Supreme Court sentenced him, it should also have arranged for his right to appeal. He said the PML-N leaders had no right to tell him that he should not go for appeal against the apex court decision.
(Read: From among our many wounds)
Published in The Express Tribune, May 2nd, 2012.
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