Employers, including industrialists, in Sindh are most likely to wholeheartedly accept and implement the recent recommendation of the provincial government to increase the minimum monthly wage of labourers to Rs32,000.
The Sindh Minimum Wages Board (SMWB) on Tuesday (September 26) formally proposed Rs32,000 as the minimum monthly wage for unskilled workers and Rs33, 280 as the minimum monthly salary for skilled workers. At present, the minimum monthly salary for unskilled labourers is Rs25,000 while that of skilled workers is Rs31,961.
The SMWB has invited objections to the proposed minimum wages within 14 days. The new proposed minimum wages once approved for implementation will be paid to the workers in Sindh retrospectively from July 1, 2023.
Two years back, the decision of the government to increase the minimum monthly wage for labourers from Rs17,500 to Rs25,000 was vehemently opposed by industrialists and businessmen, who moved the court against this step. After getting a favourable court order, the government last year implemented its decision to increase the minimum salary to Rs25,000.
While notifying the latest minimum wage proposals of the board, SMWB Chairman Zulfikar Ali Nizamani warned the employers who didn’t pay the government-notified minimum salaries to their workers that action would be taken against them as per the law.
When contacted, Secretary General Employers’ Federation of Pakistan (EFP) Syed Nazar Ali said the latest proposal of increasing the minimum monthly wage to Rs32,000 was fully acceptable to them. He said the Employers’ Federation had due representation on the minimum wages board of Sindh. “So we were fully part of the consultative process, which led to this latest recommendation of the minimum salary,” he said.
He said that two years back the situation had been entirely different as the government irrespective of the recommendation of SMWB had unilaterally increased the minimum monthly wage from Rs17,500 to Rs25,000. At that time the SMWB had proposed to the provincial government to increase the minimum salary to Rs19,000 but the board’s recommendation was turned down by the government, he added.
To a question as to whether or not increasing the minimum monthly salary to Rs32,000 would help labourers earn a good living for their families, the EFP office-bearers said the concept of the minimum wage was basically for a new entrant to an industry that didn’t have dependants in the family to support. “Instead, this new entrant by earning this minimum wage supplements the overall income of his family,” he said.
But he conceded that as per the persisting norm of the industry, this minimum wage was also paid to the workers who had been in the industry for many years.
“For the purpose of earning a salary, which could be sufficient enough for the livelihood needs of the family of a labourer, there is the concept of a living wage that in the case of Pakistan is paid by a handful of multinationals,” he said.
He said that a process of debate should be started on the proposal that the local industry in Pakistan should also start paying this living wage to the workers as the several problems of the employers in the country should also be taken into account before making any such decision.
Umer Rehan, former president of the Korangi Association of Trade & Industry, said the latest proposal to increase the minimum salary to Rs32,000 would be fully acceptable to the industry as it was in line with the minimum salaries implemented in other parts of the country.
Noted industrialist Mirza Ikhtiar Baig said the concerned businessmen would accept the latest minimum wage recommendation keeping in view the massive increase in inflation that had multiplied the economic miseries of the workers and their families.
“But one should keep in mind that the industrialists are going to implement this decision in the larger interest of the workers despite the massive increase in their cost of doing business,” he said.
Habibuddin Junadi of the People’s Labour Bureau, however, said the minimum monthly wage of labourers in the country should be Rs55,000 given the unprecedented hike in the prices of essential products and services. “But we are left with no option but to accept this latest recommendation with the only condition that the provincial government should ensure its implementation across the industry and private sector without any exception or concession,” he added.