Those employed in the cottage industries constitute a part of the informal economy and are not recognised as ‘workers,' as such labour laws are not applicable to them.
The informal sector accounts for more than 73 percent of all workers according to the Pakistan Labour Force Survey 2007-2008. The informal sector includes those employed in the cottage industry, home based workers among others.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Labour Education Foundation director Khalid Mehmood said those employed in a cottage industry should be allowed to exercise the right to freedom of association guaranteed under Article 17 of the Constitution. He said they should be able to form unions in accordance with the provisions of the article.
Article 37(e) provides for an adequate working environment, and ensuring that children and women are not employed in vocations deemed unfit for their age or gender. It guarantees maternity benefits for working women.
After the passage of the 18th Amendment this is a provincial subject.
Freedom of Association
The right to freedom of association is guaranteed under Article 17 of the Constitution. This guarantees every citizen the right to form associations or unions, subject to reasonable restrictions imposed in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of Pakistan, public order and morality.
Clause 3 of the Punjab Industrial Relations Act 2010 states that workers of an establishment may form and, subject to the rules of the organization, may join associations of their own choice without previous authorisation. It states that a worker shall not be entitled to be a member of more than one trade union at any one time and on joining another trade union, his earlier membership of a trade union shall stand cancelled.
Employers may establish and subject to the rules of the organisation, may join associations of their choice without previous authorization.
Every trade union and employers’ association shall frame its own constitution and rules to elect its representatives in full freedom to organise its administration and activities and to formulate its programmes; and workers’ or employers’ organisations may establish and join federations and confederations and any such organisation, federation or confederation may affiliate with international organisations and confederations of workers’ or employers’ organisations.
Those working in an industry should be given the right to form associations and unions in accordance with the Punjab Industrial Relations Act 2010.
The government must ensure that the law regarding minimum wage is applicable to those employed in an industry. It presently stands at Rs12,000 per month.
Unfair Labour Practice
Clause 18 of the Punjab Industrial Relations Act 2010 states that no workman or other person or trade union of workmen shall:
• Persuade a workman to join or refrain from joining a trade union during working hours;
• Intimidate any person to become, or refrain from becoming, or to continue to be, or to cease to be a member or office-bearer of a trade union;
• Induce any person to refrain from becoming, or cease to be a member or office-bearer of a trade union, by intimidating or conferring or offering to confer any advantage on, or by procuring or offering to procure any advantage for such person or any other person;
• Compel or attempt to compel the employer to accept any demand by using intimidation, coercion, pressure, threat, confinement to, or ouster from a place, dispossession, assault, physical injury, disconnection of telephone, water or power facilities or such other methods; or
• Commence, continue, instigate or incite others to take part in, or expend or supply money or otherwise act in furtherance or support of, an illegal strike or a go-slow.
Explanation: In clause (e) the expression ‘go-slow’ means an organised, deliberate and purposeful slowing down of output, or the deterioration of the normal quality of work by a body of workmen acting in a concerted manner, but does not include the slowing down of normal output, or the deterioration of the normal quality of work due to a mechanical defect, breakdown of machinery, failure or defect in power supply or in the supply of normal materials and parts of machinery.
It shall be an unfair practice for a trade union to interfere with a ballot held under Section 24 by exercising undue influence, intimidation, impersonation or bribery through its executive or through any person acting on its behalf. The law dealing with the unfair labour practice must also be extended to those employed in the cottage industry.
EOBI and ESSI
The government should strive to introduce and amend legislation to enable those employed in the sector to get registered with the Employees-Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI) and the Employees Social Security Institution (ESSI). The government should also ensure that five per cent and six per cent contribution of the minimum wage to the two institutions respectively is made for each of the registered worker.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 22nd, 2014.