The Peshawar High Court on Monday granted interim relief to 19 industrial units, saying they do not have to pay the minimum wage of Rs15,000 to unskilled workers as fixed by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government till further orders.
The division bench of Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Musarrat Hilali issued the stay order against the government notification during a hearing of several similar petitions filed by Feroz Sons, Associated Industries, Saif Textile Mills, Kohat Textile Mills, Lyallpur Textile Mills Limited and Babri Cotton Mills.
The stay order would remain effective till December 17 and the court sought comments from the K-P Labour department secretary. For the time being, the industrial units would pay the unskilled workers the same salaries they received before the government issued its notification.
Rehmanullah Shah, the counsel for the petitioners, told the court that the provincial government had passed the K-P Minimum Wages Act 2013 and introduced wages and allowances for different categories of workers employed by industrial units.
Shah contended that on September 9, the provincial government issued a notification fixing minimum wage at Rs15,000 per month for each worker. The government ordered that the wages be made effective from July 1, 2014.
Shah argued that the minimum wage in Punjab was Rs12,000. He added K-P was already plagued by terrorism and many industrial units had been closed due to various reasons. “The act was passed without taking recommendations from the Minimum Wages Board and Workers Welfare Board,” he stressed.
After hearing the preliminary arguments, the court issued a stay order and directed the petitioners not to pay the monthly salaries at Rs15,000 per month and revert back to the pre-notification pay-scale till further orders from the court.
“The said notification is void, illegal and against the law for the reason that it was issued in a hasty manner. The wages may be increased by the recommendation of the Minimum Wages Board,” the petition says.
It further states that labour was fully devolved to the provinces after the 18th Constitutional Amendment in 2010. The petitioner stated that provinces could now decide for themselves by using the Minimum Wages Act, subject to the recommendation of the Minimum Wages Board.
The industrial units requested the court that the respondents be told the September 9 notification was illegal, without authority, and against the relevant rules and regulations.
Also, it should be declared that Section 2, clause (xiii) of the K-P Minimum Wage Act 2013 is ultra vires and against the mandate of Article 25-A of the Constitution, they stated.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 9th, 2014.