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Trade unions hail SC judgment in Sui Southern trade union case

Karachi

May 24, 2020

Trade union and labour support organisations on Saturday welcomed the Supreme Court’s landmark judgment in which the apex court has held that the contract workers have legitimate and fundamental right to form a union or become a part of it and take part in the union referendum or elections.

In a joint statement Karamat Ali, executive director, Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research; Nasir Mansoor, secretary-general, National Trade Union Federation, Habibuddin Junaidi, president, Peoples Labour Bureau Sindh; Liaquat Sahi of the Democratic Workers Union, State Bank of Pakistan; Zehra Khan of the Home-based Women Workers Federation; Farhat Parveen from the NOW Communities, and others underlined the need for the implementation of the order in all corporations in the country.

Supreme Court Judge Justice Maqbool Baqar, who was heading a two-member bench, wrote in the judgment on a petition filed by the Sui Southern Gas Company management against an Islamabad High Court’s verdict that the purported arrangement/contract between the company and their purported labour contractors could not be allowed to be used as a device to deprive the workers of their legitimate and fundamental rights to form a union or become part of it.

The labour leaders said that since the introduction of neo-liberal economic policies in the country, companies had started employing their workers and employees on a contract basis and through the third-party system, in which, they said, the workers did not have legal labour rights and they were even deprived of their constitutional right of association nor were they allowed to form trade unions.

The trade unions, in many nationalised companies like banks, have been abolished as the banks and corporations have started contract employment systems. Similarly, in many private sector companies, the management avoids appointing employees on a regular basis, which deprives the workers of their rights of social security and other benefits, including the right to join a trade union.

They lauded the judgment and said that the Supreme Court’s judgment would set a precedent and strengthen the trade union movement in the country.

Currently, out of a total of 65.5 million workers in Pakistan, only 2-3 per cent of workers are members of any trade unions and an overwhelming majority of workers are deprived of their legal rights of social security, pensions and joining their trade unions.