Labour and trade union leaders on Sunday expressed concerns over reports of industries and companies across Karachi laying off their employees and not paying them the full salary for March.
Addressing a news conference at the Karachi Press Club, they also expressed concerns over the non-implementation of the Sindh government’s order barring industries and companies from laying off their employees due to the current lockdown to prevent local transmission of COVID-19.
They demanded that the federal and provincial governments provide unemployment allowance to all the laid-off workers under a universal social security system like those available in many countries.
They said that in the present situation, when all the industries and businesses are closed across Pakistan, an unemployment allowance can save the workers from economic difficulties. Workers in this country have been hit hard due to the novel coronavirus-related lockdown, and unemployment benefits are essential to protect the workers from economic crises, they added.
The Pakistan Institute of Labour Education & Research’s Karamat Ali said that independent economists like Dr Hafiz Pasha fear that over 20 million people will lose their jobs due to the lockdown, the closure of industries and businesses and the loss of exports.
“These economists suggest that a universal social security system can be launched within three months, and the existing institutions can be used to implement it all over the country.”
He pointed out that Sindh has over 40 million workers but only four to five per cent of them are registered with social security institutions like the Provincial Social Security Institution or the Employees’ Old-age Benefits Institution.
He asked the country’s president to present a report on the implementation of the Principles of Policy as mentioned in the constitution, according to which he is bound to present such a report during his annual address before the parliament.
He said that a few days ago he had spoken to President Dr Arif Alvi on the phone and asked why he had not presented such a report in the parliament in the past two years.
“Dr Alvi has promised to present the report on the observations as well as implementation of the Principles of Policy before the next joint parliament session.”
Ali said that around 10 economists have been contacted and they have agreed to prepare a blue print of the implementation of the Principles of Policy, which will be presented to the president for his consideration.
The National Trade Union Federation’s Nasir Mansoor said the Sindh government tried to provide legal coverage to its notification through an ordinance, but neither has it been signed by the governor nor is the provincial government pushing him to do it.
The Democratic Workers Union of the State Bank of Pakistan’s (SBP) Liaqat Sahi said the constitution also asks the governors to present reports on the implementation of the Principles of Policy before the respective provincial assemblies, but this is not being done.
He said the constitution is not being implemented, and demanded to include social security as a fundamental right in the constitution. He also said workers’ leaders are being threatened if they protest against the non-implementation of the Sindh government’s notification.
He pointed out that a constitutional petition has been filed in the Sindh High Court, which has issued notices to the governor asking him why he has not signed the ordinance formulated for the protection of workers’ rights.
The Peoples Labour Bureau’s Habibuddin Junaidi said workers’ bodies fully support the doctors and endorse their views regarding a strict lockdown. He also expressed concerns over the non-implementation of the order asking industries and companies not to lay off their workers and pay them their salaries of March in full.
He said that many industries have not paid salaries to their workers, while a number of banks have closed many of their branches, due to which their employees are suffering.
He also said the government and the SBP have provided incentives to employers and owners of industries. “We call upon the State Bank to ensure that the companies availing soft-term loans under special schemes are providing incentives to their workers.”
The National Organisation of Working Communities’ Farhat Parveen said that informal workers in the agriculture sector or those employed as home-based workers, especially women, have not been receiving their wages. She also demanded that doctors and other health professionals be provided personal protection equipment.
The Home-Based Women Workers Federation’s Zehra Khan demanded that health and education budgets be brought equal to the defence budget. “We demand that the Government of Pakistan not pay back all the loans, and spend that money on human resource development.”
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