The Sindh High Court on Friday issued notices to federal and provincial law officers and others on a petition seeking the enforcement of labour laws and abolition of the outsourcing and contract employment system in the government and private sectors.
The petitioners, including Liquat Ali Sahi and Karamat Ali, submitted that Pakistan had committed to the international community to safeguard the rights of workers and make sure that all the establishments, whether big or small, private or state-owned, followed fair labour practices.
Their counsel, Rasheed A Razvi, submitted that Pakistan had ratified 36 labour conventions, including eight fundamental conventions, which were binding on the federal and provincial governments, but they had failed to implement them in letter and spirit.
He said the outsourcing and hiring employees on a contract basis to posts which were of a permanent nature was a sham or pretence and in fact a fraudulent act on the part of employers.
Razvi submitted that employing workers on a contract basis was not confined to the formal sector, as informal economy workers were the worst sufferers of thos menace. He added that informal economy supported millions of people across a large geographic area, undertaking a wide variety of low-paid, low-productivity jobs, under working conditions that were frequently harsh, unhealthy, and hazardous; besides, workers in the informal economy, including domestic workers, were not covered by labour laws in Pakistan and as such they had no protection against the greed, whims and arbitrariness of their employers.
The counsel stated that when the executive failed to protect the fundamental rights and itself became a violator of the rights which were guaranteed under the constitution of Pakistan, then the judiciary played its role of guarding rights of the citizens.
The petitioners prayed that the appointment on daily wages, or on a temporary basis or through outsourcing either in the government, semi-government, statutory bodies or private organisations be declared acts violative of fundamental rights and international conventions and liable to be struck down.
They requested the court to issue a direction to the federal government and the provincial government to enact laws for the implementation of the ILO conventions and to abolish the sham and fraudulent practice of hiring outsourced workers/third party contract employees and/or hiring them on a contract basis to posts which were permanent in nature. The court was also requested to direct the federal and provincial governments to bring the informal economy workers under the ambit of labour laws to safeguard their rights.
A division bench headed by Justice Arshad Hussain Khan, after the preliminary hearing of the petition, issued notices to the federal and Sindh governments and the attorney general of Pakistan and fixed the matter for February 4.