NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD FROM MAY 18TH TO MAY 24TH
PM LAUNCHES CASH DISBURSAL PROGRAMME FOR WORKERS TODAY
The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter Updated May 18, 2020
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan is launching on Monday (today) the cash disbursal programme under the Ehsaas Emergency Cash for workers who are worst affected by the coronavirus crisis and have become jobless.
According to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), over 3.4 million applications of jobless people have so far been received through the Ehsaas Labour Portal. More than Rs3 billion have so far been mobilised in the PM Covid-19 Fund and the pledges continue to be realised.
The prime minister has committed that for each rupee provided by donors, Rs4 will be committed by the government.
On May 2, PM Khan inaugurated the Ehsaas Labor Portal, which enables Covid-19 job/livelihood-loss affectees to seek Ehsaas Emergency Cash assistance from the government.
He also announced that the donations he was receiving in the PM Covid-19 Fund would be used to give Ehsaas Emergency Cash to deserving job-loss/livelihood-loss affected people. The Ehsaas Emergency Cash of Rs12,000 will be given to these individuals.
The process of cash disbursal to deserving people will commence on May 18. The prime minister will be present at an Ehsaas camp where the first batch of job-loss/livelihood-loss affected people will receive Ehsaas Emergency Cash.
The existing principles and processes that have been deployed for Ehsaas Emergency Cash will be fully applied in the use of the Prime Minister’s Covid-19 donor funds. Rule-based controls will be fully adhered to. Data analytics will be employed for selection of beneficiaries. The system of identification will be fully apolitical and free from human interference. Payments will be done after biometric verification. There will be full transparency in deployment of funds.
The PM Office announced that tehsil level bank disbursement and withdrawal details will be made public, just as in the case of Ehsaas Emergency Cash, under a separate Category IV and will be posted on https://www.pass.gov.pk/ecs/uct_all.html.
Tehsil-wise number of beneficiaries, bank disbursement details, accounts credited, and money withdrawn will be posted on a real time basis.
Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2020
RALLIES IN 30 CITIES OF PUNJAB AGAINST ANTI-LABOUR POLICIES
The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter Updated May 20, 2020
LAHORE: Demanding all workers be reinstated, different labour organisations on Tuesday took out a protest rally in the city against, what they called, persistent layoffs, non-payment of salaries, cuts in pays and pensions.
According to the Workers Solidarity Committee, a conglomerate of labour unions and sponsor of the Tuesday protest, the rallies were taken out in more than 30 cities across the country to speak out against “attacks on the working class and organize workers”.
Addressing the participants, speakers said that it was a labor-hostile government which was giving more than Rs1,500 billion to the big capitalists in various forms. The prime minister, ministers and the government institutions care about the big capitalists but not the workers.
“We demand that all the sacked workers be reinstated in their jobs and their salaries paid in full, without any deductions on different excuses. In addition, there should be no cuts in pensions. Instead of filling the pockets of the capitalists, the government should give full pension to workers,” the committee says.
The Lahore rally was held at Kot Lakhpat and attended by workers, political activists and students.
This united front includes the Awami Workers Party, Pakistan Trade Union Federation, National Trade Union Federation, Mazdoor Mahaz, Women’s Democratic Front, Mehnatkash Tahreek, Revolutionary Socialist Movement, Workers Democracy, National Students Federation, the PRSF and other organizations.
Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2020
LAY-OFFS RILE LABOUR LEADERS
The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter May 21, 2020
LAHORE: Labour leaders have protested that notwithstanding certain enactments by the government barring dismissal of workers in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic various industrialists have sacked their employees without any let or hindrance.
Muhammad Yaqoob, Qazi Ahmad, Naeem Qureshi, Shaukat Chaudhry, Hanif Ramay and others said particularly the government had promulgated an ordinance banning termination of workers from service or denial of salaries during the contagion but, in fact, a number of textile, garments, glass, paper, electronics and other industries have not only sacked thousands of workers from their jobs but many more were denied payment of their salaries and other dues.
And those who dared to protest the illegality outside the factories were tortured and arrested by police.
They said when a government failed to implement its laws or maintain its writ it lost the right to govern.
They regretted that industrialists had extorted bailout packages worth billions of rupees from the government in the name of lockdown crisis but were not ready to pay to their workers by denying them their lawful wages and other dues.
Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2020
Editorial May 21, 2020
IN the run-up to Eid, there is often some unrest witnessed among workers. The Covid-19 pandemic added greater purpose and urgency to the chants by trade unions as they gathered on Tuesday to take out rallies in over 30 cities of Punjab amongst others. They represented exploited workers who face an uncertain future. The issues they raised are not new to those who make and operate the system. Throughout, the stories have been the same and only the faces of workers change as they continue to be recognised and dismissed as mere ‘industrial hands’. The rallies were organised by a conglomerate of various trade unions, and aimed to highlight the plight of those hit by the large-scale layoffs, cuts in and non-payment of salaries and pensions. A main protest theme of the meeting in Lahore was the ‘neglect’ of the working class by a ‘labour-hostile’ government. It was obvious that these protesters were not in a mood to be cajoled by the allowances the government had been promising those economically hit by the coronavirus. Also, the relentless prime ministerial reliance on the ghareeb or poor worker for his justification against a proper lockdown worth the name seems to have had little appeasing effect on those who live in dread of losing their livelihood.
Trade unions are in the habit of demanding more than what appears reasonable to employers and regulators. That, however, doesn’t take away from the reality of how labour — even the documented workforce — is absent from the general discussion on schemes for economic uplift. Worldwide, labour has been the worst hit economically by the pandemic. Among this group, Pakistani workers are likely to be at the bottom rung, given the fact that we are still a country where labour law violations are easy to conceal, and where the authorities routinely turn a blind eye to the wrongs committed by industrialists meaning to contribute to the ‘country’s economy’. The truth is that on immediate evidence, these 30-odd rallies have gone unnoticed officially. No spokesman has turned up to respond to the calls of these trade unionists. These labour leaders may be more deserving of an answer than opposition party politicians whose remarks receive a routine and loud retort from officialdom. By ignoring the issues raised by these workers, the government is only helping to intensify the feeling of exploitation and the sense of hatred against this exploitation.
Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2020
BUILDERS, CONTRACTORS ACQUITTED IN SIX LABOURERS’ DEATH CASE
Naeem Sahoutara May 21, 2020
KARACHI: Seven builders, contractors and an engineer were acquitted following an out-of-court compromise made between parties in a case pertaining to the death of six labourers who fell after a construction lift buckled in Clifton, it emerged on Wednesday.
The labourers had died after falling from an under-construction 23-storey building in Block 7 of Clifton on March 9, 2019. They were reportedly fixing glasses on the upper floors of the high-rise when the lift buckled.
Four builders — Mohammad Amin Patel of M/s Land Mark Enterprises, his partners in the under-construction project Abdul Aziz Memon, Mohammad Munir Memon and Ameer Ali — two contractors Irfan-ur-Rehman and Moosa Iqbal and engineer Khalil Ahmed were booked in the case registered under Sections 322 (manslaughter) and 34 (common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code at the Boat Basin police station.
Additional District and Sessions Judge (South) Ghulam Murtaza Baloch, heard arguments from the state prosecutor and counsel representing the suspects and the legal heirs of the victims and passed the order on the compromise applications moved by the parties.
A court is told that victims’ heirs forgave builder, his three partners and others in an out-of-court settlement
The court order said: “Accused Ameen Muhammad Kajani, Moosa Iqbal, Irfan Rehman, Abdul Aziz, Ameer Ali, Muhammad Muneer Memon and Khalil Ahmed are present on bail.
“Arguments heard. Order passed and announced in open court. All accused persons are acquitted under 345(6) Cr.P.C from this case. All accused person are present on bail, their bail bond stands cancelled and surety discharged. Case disposed off accordingly,” it added.
In July 2019, the court was informed that the suspects and the legal heirs of the victims were going to enter into an out-of-court compromise.
Advocate Shujaat Ali Khan had moved an application on behalf of the victims’ heirs, under Section 345(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code, mentioning that they had pardoned the suspects without any fear or pressure in the name of the Almighty and had no objection if the suspects were discharged in the present case.
Talking to Dawn, Advocate Khan confirmed that the court had allowed the compromise between the parties and the seven nominated suspects had been acquitted in the case.
The defence counsel had also filed applications under Section 345(6) of the CrPC, mentioning that their clients had reached an out-of-court settlement with the legal heirs of the deceased labourers and they had no objection if they were discharged in the present case.
Both the counsel had pleaded to the court to accept the compromise between the parties as it was permissible under the law.
Subsequently, on the directives of the court, the investigating officer had filed a police report regarding the deceased persons and their legal heirs.
The court was informed that a notice to the public at large was also published in a newspaper on Dec 13, 2019 in compliance with the court’s directive to invite objection from the public, if any, to such a compromise between the parties.
Finally, the judge had personally summoned the victims’ legal heirs and the suspects to verify the purported out-of-the-court compromise reached between them in the matter.
“The court accepted the compromise, as permissible under the law, and all the suspects have been acquitted in the case,” state prosecutor Siraj Memon also confirmed to Dawn.
In May 2019, IO Sohail Akhtar Salahri had filed an investigation report, charge-sheeting the builder and both the contractors for their trial under Sections 322 (manslaughter) and 34 (common intention) of the PPC.
However, the IO did not name the engineer and also placed the builder’s three partners in column No 2 in blue ink, meaning that they may be tried if sufficient evidence was found against them.
But, state prosecutor Dewan Bhuromal in his scrutiny note of the charge sheet, pointed out that the IO had let off the project partners as well as licensed professionals, including the engineer of the under-construction project, in the case.
He concluded that in the light of evidence/reports available on record, all the charge-sheeted suspects and others, who were let off by the IO, had committed “serious negligence”.
According to the prosecutor, a report on the subject project, provided by the Sindh Building Control Authority, had revealed that as per condition no 4 of the structure no-objection certificate, the structural engineer was also responsible to depute full-time engineers at the construction site to instruct the deputies and contractors always in writing.
“As the six men lost their lives, all the suspects were liable to face charges under Sections 322, 287 (negligent conduct with respect to machinery) and 34 (common intention) of the PPC,” the prosecutor had recommended.
A judicial magistrate had ruled that the charge sheet filed by the IO was not binding upon the courts and the court could refuse to take cognizance on a ‘positive’ report.
Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2020
MIGRANT WORKERS MOUNT PROTEST OVER UNPAID WAGES IN QATAR
AFP May 24, 2020
DOHA: Migrant workers staged a rare protest in Qatar over unpaid wages, the government said on Saturday, at a time of economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and rock-bottom oil prices.
Images on social media showed more than 100 men blocking a main road in the Msheireb district of the capital Doha late on Friday, clapping and chanting as police looked on.
“In response to the late settlement of salaries, a small number of expatriate workers conducted a peaceful protest in the Msheireb area on May 22,” the labour ministry said in a statement.
“Following an immediate investigation (the ministry) has taken steps to ensure that all salaries will be promptly paid in the coming days.”
Legal action has been taken against the companies involved in non-payment of salaries, it added.
The oil-rich Gulf is reliant on the cheap labour of millions of foreigners, mostly from India, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
Many live in squalid camps far from the region’s showy skyscrapers and malls.
Almost 90 per cent of Qatar’s population is expatriate workers as the country completes dozens of mega-projects ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
But the coronavirus and its devastating economic impact have left many workers sick and others unemployed, unpaid and at the mercy of sometimes unscrupulous employers.
Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2020
LABOUR LEADERS LAUD SC VERDICT ON UNIONISATION
By Our Correspondent Published: May 24, 2020
KARACHI: Trade unions and labour activists have welcomed the Supreme Court’s verdict stating that contractual workers have a legitimate and fundamental right to form or join labour unions.
A joint statement issued on Saturday by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research executive director Karamat Ali, National Trade Union Federation secretary-general Nasir Mansoor, Home-based Women Workers Federation general secretary Zehra Khan and others underlined the need to implement the order in all corporate sectors of the country.
In an appeal by the Sui Southern Gas Company against the Islamabad High Court verdict, the apex court’s Justice Maqbool Baqar, heading a two-member bench, stated that the contract between the company and their purported labour contractors could not be allowed to be used as a device to deprive workers of their legitimate and fundamental right to form or join a union. The labour leaders asserted that since the introduction of neo-liberal economic policies in the country, companies had taken to hiring their workers on contractual and third-party systems, depriving them of their legal and constitutional rights.
The statement added that several companies, both nationalised and private, tend to hire employees on a contractual basis to distance them from their basic rights.
“The Supreme Court’s judgment will set precedence and strengthen the trade union movement in the country,” the statement read, lauding the verdict.
Out of a total workforce of 65.5 million in Pakistan, only 2 to 3 per cent workers are members of trade unions, while an overwhelming majority of workers are stripped of their legal rights of social security, pensions and unionisation.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2020.
NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD FROM MAY 11TH TO MAY 17TH
CM FOR UNIFORM POLICY TO FACILITATE LABOURERS
Bureau Report May 11, 2020
PESHAWAR: Chief Minister Mahmood Khan has directed the quarters concerned to form a committee headed by additional chief secretary with representation of all the relevant departments to come up with workable proposals to form a uniform policy for the wellbeing of labourers.
He stressed the need for devising a comprehensive strategy backed by a uniform legal and policy framework for the wellbeing of labourers in the province and protection of their basic rights, according to a statement.
The chief minister has also directed the officials concerned to expedite work on computerised data collection of labourers across the province and work on drastic reforms in the affairs of labour department with special focus on Workers Welfare Board in order to make it an effective body to ensure protection of the basic rights of workers.
He was chairing a meeting to review the overall progress of labour department. Provincial Minister for Labour Shaukat yousfzai, Additional Chief Secretary Shakil Qadir, Finance Secretary Atif Rehman, Principal Secretary to CM Shahab Ali Shah, labour secretary and other high ups attended the meeting.
Mahmood Khan orders formation of panel to present proposals
The meeting was briefed about the steps taken for the welfare of labourers, fixation of minimum wages for them, progress on their data collection, matters related to regularisation of the contract employees of Workers Welfare Board and many other matters.
The provincial minister informed the chief minister about the issues faced by labourers working in different types of mines due to the existence of various laws and policies under different departments.
The chief minister directed the high ups of the departments concerned to review the existing laws and policies governing the matters of labourers and come up with proposals for a single and inclusive policy under a single department to facilitate the labourers.
Mahmood Khan said that protection of the basic rights of labourers and their wellbeing were top priorities of the government.
He said that government was committed to protecting the rights of labourers.
He added that result-oriented steps were being taken for welfare of the workers.
Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2020
TOXIC GAS KILLS FIVE LABOURERS
OUR CORRESPONDENT May 11, 2020
QUETTA. Five labourers died of inhaling poisonous gas while cleaning a well in the Khuda-i-Abadan area of Panjgur district. Briefing on the incident, a police official said two labourers wet inside a well to clean it where poisonous gas had accumulated.
They fell unconscious. Four other labourers went inside to rescue them but they also fainted, he added. Later, the rescue teams recovered the six workers from the well and rushed them to District Hospital Panjgur where doctors pronounced five of them dead. The sixth worker was under treatment at the hospital.
NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD FROM MAY 4TH TO MAY 10TH
CAREEM CUTS 31PC OF WORKFORCE
Reuters May 05, 2020
DUBAI: Careem, the Dubai-headquartered tech giant, on Monday announced it was cutting 536 jobs this week, representing 31 per cent of the company’s total workforce.
The announcement came hours after Uber said it was shuttering its Eats delivery business in several markets, including the Middle East, and laying off dozens of staff.
In a blog on Careem’s website, CEO Mudassir Sheikha said they were prioritising the security of the company and that parent Uber continues to believe in its super-app model.
“As we have discussed several times in the last few weeks, the crisis brought on by Covid-19 has put our dream and future impact at significant risk,” Sheikha said.
The geographic breakdown of the layoffs is unclear and it remains unknown by how Pakistani offices and operations would be impacted by it.
“As we envisioned becoming a Super App, reshaping for some of our markets, like Pakistan, was already under process, it has been further impacted by the current crisis,” the company’s spokesperson said.
He added that business was down by more than 80pc and warned that it was “alarmingly unknown” when it would recover.
“In this new reality, the surest way to secure Careem for the long term is to drive towards self-sustainability within a reasonable time frame,” he said.
According to the statement, the layoffs would be concentrated in non-tech roles.
The Careem BUS mass-transportation operation has also been suspended, it said.
Published in Dawn, May 5th, 2020
1.6BN INFORMAL WORKERS HIT BY LOCKDOWNS: ILO
Amin Ahmed Updated May 09, 2020
ISLAMABAD: As many as 1.6 billion of the world’s 2bn informal economy workers are affected by Covid-19 lockdown and containment measures, a new briefing paper issued by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) said.
Most are working in the hardest-hit sectors or in small units more vulnerable to shocks including workers in accommodation and food services, manufacturing, wholesale and retail, and the more than 500 million farmers producing for the urban market, the report says. Women are particularly affected in high-risk sectors, it adds.
The Covid-19 lockdown and containment measures threaten to increase relative poverty levels among the world’s informal economy workers by as much as 56 percentage points in low-income countries.
In high-income countries, relative poverty levels among informal workers is estimated to increase by 52 percentage points, while in upper middle-income countries the increase is estimated to be 21 percentage points.
In addition, with these workers needing to work to feed their families, Covid-19 containment measures in many countries cannot be implemented successfully. This is endangering governments’ efforts to protect the population and fight the pandemic. It may become a source of social tension in countries with large informal economies, the report says.
More than 75 per cent of total informal employment takes place in businesses of fewer than ten workers, including 45pc of independent workers without employees.
With most informal workers having no other means of support, they face an almost unsolvable dilemma: to die from hunger or from the virus, the briefing says. This has been exacerbated by disruptions in food supplies, which has particularly affected those in the informal economy.
For the world’s 67 million domestic workers, 75pc of whom are informal workers, unemployment has become as threatening as the virus itself. Many have not been able to work, whether at the request of their employers or in compliance with lockdowns. Those who do continue to go to work face a high risk of contagion, caring for families in private households. For the 11 million migrant domestic workers the situation is even worse.
The countries with the largest informal economies, where full lockdowns have been adopted, are suffering the most from the consequences of the pandemic. Informal economy workers significantly impacted by lockdown vary from 89pc in Latin America and the Arab states to 83pc in Africa, 73pc in Asia and the Pacific, and 64pc in Europe and Central Asia.
Countries need to follow a multi-track strategy that combines several lines of actions relating to both the health and economic impacts of the pandemic, the ILO said.
Among its recommendations, the report highlights the need for policies that reduce the exposure of informal workers to the virus; ensure that those infected have access to health care; provide income and food support to individuals and their families; and prevent damage to the economic fabric of countries.
Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2020