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March 24, 2020

Sindh govt bars employers from laying off workers during lockdown period

Karachi

March 24, 2020

The Sindh government on Monday announced paid leave for all workers during the lockdown, and said no would be laid off during the period.

Leaders of an alliance of labour rights groups welcomed the decision of the employers and the Sindh government after a meeting on Monday that no employers would lay off their employees and continue their salaries during the 15-day lockdown.

On Monday, the government issued a notification under Section 3 of the Sindh Epidemic Diseases Act (2014) and other relevant labour laws, and directed that during the lockdown period no worker be laid off and all kinds of workers be paid salaries/remuneration/wages in full by their respective employers. The period of closure may be considered by the employers as paid leave.

Any person disobeying any direction or order “shall be deemed to have committed an offence punishable under Section 188 of the Pakistan Penal Code as provided under Section 4 of the said Act as well as applicable Labour Laws,” the notification said.

Directors and joint directors of the Department of Labour and Human Resources are empowered under the said law to take any legal action on any contravention of this order or the directions/orders/notices issued. Leaders of the National Labour Council (NLC), a representative body of workers, had on March 17 demanded from the provincial government to constitute a task force to determine the financial losses to industries and companies and find solutions to ensure the rights of workers were protected.

“Issuance of the notification by the Sindh government is a welcome decision and this decision should be implemented strictly all over the province,” he said in a statement jointly released by members of the NLC, including Karamat Ali, executive director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler), Habibuddin Junaidi of the Peoples Labour Bureau, Liaquat Sahi of the State Bank of Pakistan Labour Union, and Nasir Mansoor of the National Trade Union Federation.

The NLC leaders said some industries had already been exempted from the lockdown, where the employers had arranged transport for the workers. They said that the government should ensure the provision of ration to the daily-wage workers or those who were working as domestic workers on a piece-rate basis. The government should evolve a mechanism for transparent distribution of relief goods at the doorsteps of such workers.

Ali, the Piler executive director, said that workers had been suffering a lot in the wake of the closure of industries because of the lockdown. “Many of the workers have lost their means of income due to the closure of industry. The Sindh government’s decision will help them a lot in minimizing their sufferings,” he told The News.

He also demanded that free testing for coronavirus for workers in their nieghbourhoods. Nasir Mansoor, an NTUF’s leader, said that on the demands of trade unions and labour bodies, the Sindh government had announced paid leave for all workers whether they worked in factories or at another workplace.

“It’s a very appreciable action on behalf of the government, which must be implemented in true spirit. I on behalf of workers appeal to the federal, provincial, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan governments to follow the decision of the Sindh government with immediate effect,” he said.

He also said that the federal government had announced a 200 billion rupees’ package for industrialists, but only a small amount of Rs3,000 per month for daily-wagers, which was not sufficient to cater to the minimum need of a family. “We demand that the government should pay a minimum wage to each and every worker during the lockdown,” he said.