The Sindh Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has vowed to launch a campaign to redress complaints about the non-implementation of minimum wages. SHRC Chairman Iqbal Detho hs said the provincial government is evolving a mechanism to receive workers’ complaints. He was speaking at a provincial consultation titled ‘Implementation of Minimum Wage Act’, which was jointly organised by the commission and The Knowledge Forum at a hotel here on Friday.
The consultation was largely attended by trade unions, labour leaders, human rights defenders, representatives of government departments and the media. He said the commission daily receives complaints regarding the non-implementation of minimum wages.
The SHRC would provide an online complaint form and the Labour Department’s Sindh Wage Board would assist in this regard, Detho said, adding that the main objective was to reach a consensus and propose a systematic approach for the government to determine the minimum wage rate for both skilled and unskilled workers.
Talking about the role of the SHRC to ensure the protection of the human rights of citizens, he said the commission is a legally established entity with the authority to take suo motu actions in violation of human rights.
He pointed out that Pakistan is a signatory to important international conventions, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR) and the many of the ILO conventions. Under the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138), Pakistan has passed the minimum wage law and after the 18th amendment the provinces have made their own laws.
Under the Sindh Minimum Wage Act 2015, the Minimum Wage Board decides about the wages for both unskilled and skilled workers. Zulfiqar Nizamani, chairman of the Sindh Minimum Wages Board, said the Sindh government had got credit for fixing the minimum wages through a tripartite mechanism. The wages are fixed after thorough deliberation in the Minimum Wages Board. The minimum wages are fixed keeping in view the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and the price hike.
Nizamani said that for this year the board has discussed the minimum wages for workers, and the Sindh government will soon announce minimum wages. Moreover, he said, the government is emphasizing paying wages to workers via bank accounts.
Trade unions leader Zehra Khan said employees and employers are two main stakeholders, but there is a trust deficit among them. Khan pointed out that the world over countries are moving from minimum wages to living wages. Being a member of the Minimum Wage Board, she said that besides unskilled workers, the board has also started fixing the minimum wage for home-based workers. For the first time, minimum wages for glass bangle workers have been fixed and published in the official gazette.
Imtiaz Ali Shah, managing director of the Sindh Solid Waste Management Board (SSWM), shared the measures taken by the board to implement the minimum wage for sanitary workers and to ensure the necessary protections for them.
The SSWM has initiated a complaint monitoring system (CRM) to address issues related to the minimum wage, provision of personal protective equipment (PPEs) and first aid at the workplace.
During an open discussion, Zahir Farooque of the Urban Resource Centre said that the provincial government is spending a lot of funds for the disposal of solid waste, but the private companies are paying meagre wages to the workers, and some workers are even receiving Rs10,000 per month as wage.
Farhat Parveen, executive director of Now Communities, shared her insights on the status of workers’ wages in various employment sectors in Sindh. Reejo Mal, law officer at the Sindh Labour Department, shared the government’s efforts towards ensuring the payment of minimum wages to employees working in industrial and commercial establishments in the province.
Ghazanfar Ali Qadri, additional secretary of law, briefed the participants about the disparities in laws and emphasised the need for a comprehensive strategy to implement laws in corporate, industrial, and commercial sectors.
Karamat Ali, executive director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER), said the municipal workers especially sanitary workers are working in difficult conditions without any protective gear.
Javed Sibghatullah Mahar, secretary of the Sindh Human Rights Department, underlined the need for close cooperation among all government departments. Kulsoom Chandio, MPA and a member of SHRC, Krishan Sharma, Imtiaz Boota, Farhat Fatima, Khadim Mirani also spoke.