Civil society leaders and labour activists have called upon Sindh legislators to review and amend all labour laws passed by the provincial assembly and make them compliant with the conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO).
Speaking at a consultation session with Sindh MPAs on Monday, labour leaders and civil society members urged the lawmakers to frame a coordinated strategy to implement the existing labour and human rights laws.
Justice (retd) Majida Razvi, the chairperson of the Sindh Human Rights Commission, presided over the meeting, which was organised by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER).
MPAs Kulsoom Chandio, Saeed Khan Nizamani, Ameer Hyder Sheerazi, Diwan Chand Chawla, Saira Shahliani, Saeed Khan Nizamani, Waqar Hussain Shah, Rana Ansar and Haji Safi Mohammad Jamote were among the several lawmakers who attended the meeting.
PILER Executive Director Karamat Ali said that despite making unprecedented legislation regarding labour, the Sindh government has still not been able to implement them, which is a cause for concern.
Ali added that all 27 international conventions pertaining to human rights, labour rights, environmental protection and good governance, which Pakistan has signed, need to be truly implemented and also asked the legislators to make the existing laws compliant with International Labour Organization’s standards.
He said that it was encouraging that the European Union had recently decided to extend the Generalised System of Preference-Plus scheme to Pakistan for another two years,
which would enable Pakistan to export its products duty-free to the European markets.
Lauding the Sindh government for launching its first-ever Labour Policy and holding a Tripartite Labour Conference, the PILER chief said that EU’s report made special mention of these initiatives in its review that led to the extension of GSP-Plus.
“The Sindh Labour Policy is in fact an election manifesto for the PPP government and all political parties should include the points in the Labour Policy in their election manifestoes as well,” Ali said.
In her presentation, senior researcher Zeenat Hisam said that most Pakistani labour laws are not compliant with the international conventions. She pointed out that the process of law-making is slow, restrictive clauses have been retained in several laws and tripartite consultation is reported but feedback not always accommodated.
Giving an overview of the human rights situation in the country, Zeenia Shaukat said enforced disappearance cases have increased in recent years, while freedom of expression, right to association and assembly are severely curbed as well as misuse of the blasphemy law continues unabated.
She added that the media is restricted and the new cyber crime legislation is against the right of freedom of expression. Labour leader Habibuddin Junaidi said the provincial government should show seriousness in implementing its Labour Policy. "Minimum wages are fixed at Rs15,000 for unskilled workers, but unfortunately this rate is also not paid in most of the industries in the province," he pointed out.
Giving a presentation about GSP-Plus scheme and its compliance in Pakistan, PILER's Zulfiqar Shah suggested that debate needs to be created on the human rights reforms agenda, oversight should be initiated of relevant ministries and institutions, follow up of periodic reporting should be done on the state of compliance with observations /recommendations and budget should be allocated for institutions such as the Sindh Human Rights Commission.
Speaking on the occasion, MPA Mohammad Rafiq Banbhan, who belongs to Pakistan Muslim League-Functional, said agriculture workers were not getting the same facilities which the industrial workers were enjoying, such as social security and old age benefits schemes. Along with legislators, representatives of government departments also attended the consultation meeting.
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