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Karachi

August 17, 2017

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Sindh govt’s decision to hold tripartite labour conference lauded

Sindh govt’s decision to hold tripartite labour conference lauded

Welcoming the Sindh government’s announcement to hold a tripartite labour conference next month, labour representatives called for Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan to also follow into Sindh’s footsteps to devise a strategy to secure workers’ rights, at a presser held on Wednesday.

Later, the civil society activists shared suggestions received in the two day (August 12 to 13) Sindh Labour Conference and subsequently approved to be presented in the Sindh government’s labour conference.

The presser was addressed by Karamat Ali, executive director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, Habibuddin Junaidi, convener of Sindh Labour Solidarity Committee, Mahnaz Rahman, resident director of Aurat Foundation, Liaqat Sahi  of the Democratic Labour Union of State Bank and Shaikh Majeed, labour leader at the Pakistan International Airline.

Jointly organised by Piler and the Sindh Labour Solidarity Committee, the SLC was inaugurated by Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani, whereas Justice (retd) Ali Nawaz Chowhan was the chief guest at the concluding session of the conference.

Department of Labour and Human Resource Secretary Abdul Rasheed Solangi, All Pakistan Workers Confederation General Secretary Khurshid Ahmed, Supreme Court Bar Association President Rasheed A Razvi, Sindh Human Rights Commission Chairperson Justice (retd) Majida Rizvi, NCHR member Anis Haroon and NLC convener Abdul Latif Nizamani were prominent among the key speakers of the conference.

Speaking at Wednesday’s presser, Karamat Ali said that, “Holding tripartite labour conferences is mandatory under the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Convention 144.” After the 18th Amendment, labour became a provincial subject but unfortunately no provincial government bothered to hold a provincial tripartite conference – necessary consultative process for legislating upon labour policies – until now, he added.

The Piler chief said representatives of over 50 trade unions from across the province attended the conference. On the second day, participants were divided into six groups and recommendations for the tripartite conference were sought from each of them.

Among SLC’s major demands was provision of justice to labourers through labour courts. “Labour courts are currently not effectively providing relief to workers. The cases should be adjudicated upon by judges who have served in the high court,” Ali stated.

Other proposals included, provision of universal social security facilities to all citizens was decided upon, for which all workers were called for being registered with the Sindh Employees Social Security Institution (SESSI) and other labour welfare organisations.

All labour laws were suggested to be brought in accordance with the ILO Conventions and Constitution of Pakistan; exclusions from registering trade unions, issuance of appointment letters to all employees and abolishment of third-party contract system are also part of the suggestions to be discussed with the government.

Mentioning the plight of agriculture workers and fishermen, Ali shared that in the Industrial Relations Act, 2013 both the sectors’ workforces come under the definition of workers, but no rules of business have been chalked out to enable them to have their trade unions registered under the law. 

The labour representatives have decided to not only establish rules of business for farmers and fishermen, but a demand to set up Hari courts at district level to hear cases related to the Sindh Tenancy Act will also be put forward by the organisations.

Concern was also expressed over lack of safety measures taken to protect workers from ever-increasing industrial accidents owing to inadequate occupational health and safety facilities in factories and improper labour inspections by provincial labour department.  New labour inspectors, half of them female, were urged to be appointed by the labour department. 

Absence of proper data regarding trade unions and their membership in Sindh was also decried; need to conduct and extensive survey to ascertain existence of trade unions was also underlined.

The conference’s participants also demanded the federal and provincial governments to take measures to have the 27 international conventions ratified by the government under the GSP-Plus scheme are implemented. The textile industrialists fear closure of industries in case the GSP Plus scheme is withdrawn, Ali said while sharing that so far 100 textiles mills had already been closed down and thousands of workers feared losing their jobs.

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