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Call for paying minimum wage, implementing SHC verdict

Karachi

April 4, 2021

Speakers at a seminar have demanded that the government ensure the payment of minimum wage to all the workers, especially janitors of the civic bodies, security guards and filling station workers.

The Pakistan Institute of Labour Education & Research (Piler) held a seminar titled ‘Situation of Implementation of the Minimum Wages Law’ at the Karachi Press Club on Saturday. Leaders of various trade unions and civil society groups attended the programme.

Rights activist Naeem Sadiq said the Sindh Employees Social Security Institution (Sessi), the Employees Old-age Benefits Institution (EOBI) and the provincial labour department should implement the March 10 decision of the Sindh High Court (SHC) for paying minimum wage to the janitorial staff.

Sadiq, who was among the petitioners in the case, said he and some other citizens were worried about the very low wages being paid to sanitary workers, security guards and other workers, who were mostly hired by private contractors.

“Despite the fact that the minimum wages law exists in Pakistan, there’s no implementation of the law. Minimum wage is already much lower than the living wages, and even so over 60 per cent of the workers in Pakistan are not getting it,” he said.

“There’s no social security services or any dearness allowance for such workers, and over 95 per cent of the workers don’t receive any social security facility from the state institutions.”

Welcoming the SHC verdict in favour of the janitor staff, he said now the implementation bodies of the state need to play their role in ensuring the payment of at least minimum wage to all workers.

Through senior lawyer Faisal Siddiqi, the group of citizens had filed a constitutional petition in the SHC, and after two years of legal proceedings the court issued a historic judgment ordering the civic bodies to pay minimum wage to all workers, even if they were hired through contractors.

The court had also asked the authorities concerned to pay workers’ salaries through banking channels, ensure their registration with Sessi and the EOBI, and issue them with appointment letters.

“We had conducted a survey on the living conditions of the Cantonment Board Clifton’s [CBC] janitors who are facing a lot of problems due to the skyrocketing prices,” said Sadiq.

“These workers had been hired by contractors, and majority of them are being paid less than half of the minimum wage fixed by the provincial government.”

He said he and his like-minded friends started writing to the civic organisations concerned to ask them about the salaries of janitors, but the letters were not answered.

“We then filed applications under the right to information act asking about appointment letters of their janitors, but the response was poor. Within a day the salaries of the CBC’s janitors were increased from Rs12,500 to Rs17,500.”

He said the wages of employees in the other sectors are also very low, especially those working at filling stations and as security guards. He expressed regret that Karachi’s civil society does not play its role in voicing concern for the rights of this vulnerable section of society.

He said that the EOBI as well as Sessi are state institutions, and that they have to ensure the implementation of the court’s verdict on minimum wages under the law.

Piler Executive Director Karamat Ali said that according to a recent World Bank report, Pakistani citizens are earning less than two dollars (approximately Rs307) a day, which is much lower than the minimum wage. He underlined the need to implement the SHC’s order.

The National Trade Union Federation’s Nasir Mansoor demanded including unemployment allowance in the social security services. He said that during the Covid-19 lockdown the private sector refused to pay their workers despite the fact that a special law had been passed by the Sindh government for the purpose.

He also said that a large number of workers in the industries of Karachi were sacked during the lockdown last year, but the government had failed to implement its own law.