NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD FROM DECEMBER 14TH TO DECEMBER 20TH, 2015
WAPDA UNION STRIKE PLUNGES GB INTO DARKNESS
Dawn, December 15th, 2015
GILGIT: Gilgit-Baltistan plunged into darkness on Monday following a strike call given by the Wapda Employees Union of GB in protest against the killing of one of its office-bearers in Gilgit.
An irate resident of Konadas opened fire on union’s chairman when he tried to disconnect an illegal power supply line.
Spokesman of the union Tajammul Mughal said that the lineman Muhammad Mustaqeem disconnected an illegal electricity supply line of Mr Johar, a resident of Konadas area who in rage opened fire, killing the Wapda employee on spot.
“He was killed while performing his duty. This is cold-blooded murder,” he said adding that the union has announced three days of mourning across the GB.
Furthermore, power supply to all categories of consumers was disconnected sending the entire area into darkness for many hours.
The spokesman said that the lives of Wapda employees are at risk in Gilgit city despite the fact that loadshedding was being carried out across the city as per schedule.
It was after the mediation of Secretary Water and Power Department, police and administration that the union members agreed to restore power supply at 7pm.
Police officials said that Johar was arrested soon after the incident and an FIR had also been registered against him under the Anti-Terrorism Act.
Power shutdown hampered the activities in government and private offices, besides forcing shopkeepers to close down markets early.
People in GB are facing 20 hours of loadshedding daily in winter because of an increase in demand.
High demand and reduced supply due to water shortage to power houses creates shortages.
Gilgit city is being provided electricity for four to five hours a day. The city remains in dark after 8pm.
Despite tall claims of the present government about reducing loadshedding, the city faces unabated shutdowns.
Need of heaters and other appliances in cold weather is a multiplying factor. Skardu, another big city of the GB is facing severe power crisis with supply completely closed down for three days in a week.
LEGISLATION: CABINET APPROVES POLICY ON DOMESTIC WORKERS
The Express Tribune, December 18th, 2015
LAHORE: The provincial cabinet on Thursday approved the Punjab Domestic Workers Policy, 2015, and drafts of the Restriction of Employment of Children Act, 2015, and amendments to the Animal Slaughter Control Bill, 2015, the Punjab Poultry Production Act, 2013, and the Private Education Commission Bill 2014.
Chief Minister Shahbaz Shraif chaired the meeting.The Restriction of Employment of Children Act, 2015, will ban employing of children below the age of 14 years for any kind of industrial labour.
Under the Animal Slaughter Control Amendment Bill, 2015, those caught selling haram or carrion meat will be imprisoned for four to eight years and fined between Rs300,000 and Rs500,000. The penalty for selling substandard or harmful meat has also been enhanced. Selling substandard, harmful and haram meat will be a non-bailable offence.
Under the Private Education Commission Bill, 2014, a 17-member commission will be formed to regulate private schools. Under the bill, private schools will be graded for regulating their fee structure. They will also be required to provide free education to 10 per cent of their students who come from low-income families.
The commission will check exploitation of teachers at private schools. Committees at district level will ensure that the legislation is implemented. Private schools must get registered within 90 days of the establishment of the commission.
JOB SECURITY: SERVICE STRUCTURE FOR HEALTH WORKERS NOTIFIED
The Express Tribune, December 18th, 2015.
LAHORE: The Health Department issued a notification on Thursday regularising the services of paramedics and dengue programme workers who had been working against contracts. The department also agreed to give the status of civil servants to lady health workers.
The notification came on the seventh day of a protest demonstration by paramedics. The health workers demanding regularisation of services had threatened to boycott polio and dengue campaigns.
The Health Department notification also granted a weekly holiday for dengue programme workers. If they are called in on a holiday, they would be compensated with an alternative holiday or paid an overtime allowance.
The paramedics had been protesting in front of the services director general’s office for a week. They called off the protest following the notification.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Naveed Iqbal, a paramedic, said, “We had been protesting for our rights. The government had accepted our demands, but did not take steps to keep their promises.”
He said that the government had provided an improved service structure in 24 districts but the same cover was not provided to paramedics in Lahore.
“We came together with dengue programme workers and lady health workers who were also deprived of the improved service structure. Their services also not been regularised,” he said.
“We would have boycotted the polio vaccination drive if our demands had not been met,” he said.
He said Health Services DG Amjad Shahzad had accepted all demands of the protestors.
He said that a notification in this regard had been issued by the department and sent to the chief minister.
He said that if the government violated any part of the agreement, they would protest again.
According to the meeting minutes and the notification issued by the Health EDO, a copy of which is available with The Tribune, a four-tier service structure has been approved for paramedics.
Lady health workers, health supervisors and other employees in the national health programme would be given the status of civil servants and paid accordingly.
All workers in the dengue programme would be considered for regularisation. The final agreement between the paramedics and the Health Department said that workers of the dengue programme would be given a weekly holiday on Sunday and if they were called to duties on a holiday, they would be compensated and given another weekly holiday.
NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD FROM DECEMBER 7TH TO DECEMBER DECEMBER13TH, 2015
EIGHTY-EIGHT FACTORY WORKERS FIRED FOR ‘DEMANDING RIGHTS’
The Express Tribune, December 7th, 2015.
KARACHI: With the cold winds of Karachi’s winter expected to set in soon, Abdul Jabbar thought of buying warm clothes for his newborn daughter. He was waiting for the pay day before he went to make the purchase. Times had been tough and he was struggling to make ends meet.
One day, he and his colleagues decided to talk to the management of the factory they worked at to pay them on time. They approached the management with high hopes but were instead told they were not welcome at the factory anymore.
This happened with 88 workers of the Denim Clothing Company (DCC) — a factory that manufactures clothes for international brands such as H&M and Primark — in the last week of November. According to the workers, they were sacked for demanding their rights.
“Fed up with no social security, no insurance, no medical facilities and low salaries that came on no specific date, we [the workers] decided to take up our concerns before the management,” Jabbar told The Express Tribune.
On November 26, a meeting was held among the workers in which they chose five representatives to hold talks with the management. At noon, the team went to the manager’s chamber. They never returned to their stations. They had been fired on the spot.
“The other workers decided to stand up for their colleagues. Thus in a cluster of 83, they knocked on the management’s door again, demanding the reinstatement of their five fellows,” he described.
They, however, met the same fate and were told to leave the factory immediately and not come back.
Eighty-three workers, who had been working at the factory for different time periods ranging from one year to a decade, were sacked within two hours and that too, without any prior notice.
“We are jobless since then and have nothing to do but regret our fate because we are mere labourers,” decried Jabbar as he took part in a protest against their sacking outside the Karachi Press Club on Sunday.
According to a labour leader, Nasir Mansoor, an employer cannot fire an employee unless there is a charge sheet again the person. In this case, no such protocol was followed, he said, adding that this was done in violation of the law. “The sacked workers are going to hold a meeting with the IndustriAll Global Union, which has an agreement with the buying agents of the DCC to ensure labour rights,” said Mansoor.
According to the protesting workers, more than 1,300 workers were employed at the factory to work in two shifts. But none of them had a contract signed with the company, one of the protesters said, adding that even the salaries were below the minimum wage level decided by the government.
For his part, the factory’s administration manager, Muhammad Tariq, claimed that they had not fired any one. He added, however, that they had issued show-cause notices to Abdul Jabbar and 10 others, asking them to present themselves before the administration and face an inquiry. Tariq claimed that Jabbar used to take extortion money from the workers, for which they have evidence.
THE VOICE OF LABOURERS
The Express Tribune, December 10th, 2015
On paper, we have a complex set of labour laws in the country and factory managements are supposed to implement these when dealing with workers who toil for them. But in reality, this is not the case at all.
This fact was most recently exposed by an incident at a garment factory in Karachi where hundreds of workers labour to manufacture clothes, which are then sold internationally under well-established labels. Around 88 workers at the factory were fired on the spot after requesting they be paid on time.
The problem began when the labourers at the factory chose five representatives from among themselves to speak to the management about its failure to pay their wages on the appointed day, along with the lack of social security, insurance and medical facilities. The five labourers were immediately fired on putting forward these entirely reasonable concerns.
The others who went to speak to the factory administration in their support met with the same fate. While the factory management insists that no one has been fired, an account corroborated by 88 workers is difficult to refute.
The problems faced by workers in Pakistan are well established and very widespread. The weakening of labour unions that started with the advent of the Zia regime in the 1980s has worked towards smothering the voice of labourers and peasants all over the country. Their voice has been reduced to a mere whisper.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan recently held a conference that called for the revival of labour unions. Given the current state of worker rights in the country, this is essential. In recent times, we have seen workers dying in fires that break out at the workplace, such as those killed at a garment factory in Lahore because proper safety measures had not been put in place.
Labourers in Pakistan are underpaid, overworked and many have little medical support to count on in case of health concerns. Labour inspectors generally serve the interests of wealthy factory owners and it seems that for desperate workers, in times when work is hard to find, there is nowhere to turn to.
APTMA WARNS OF MASSIVE UNEMPLOYMENT
The Express Tribune, December 10th, 2015
LAHORE: Continuing to get irked by one development after another, All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (Aptma) Punjab Chairman Aamir Fayyaz has now warned that massive unemployment would be in the offing if the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) discontinued gas supply to textile mills in Punjab.
The SNGPL has informed Aptma Punjab that gas supply to mills could be discontinued in the prevailing winter season as pressure on limited resources piles up. Addressing a press conference on Wednesday, the Aptma official said gas supply to textile mills was already low in November.
“The actual gas consumption of Punjab-based textile industry is equal to 60 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd), which is 5% of 1,200 mmcfd,” he claimed. He said 200,000 textile workers have lost jobs in the last five years.
He also criticised the government for the 40% reduction in cotton crop, claiming that a lack of proper research resulted in the supply of substandard seed to farmers.
“The government blames the weather for crop failure instead of conceding its own shortcomings,” he said, adding that Aptma was paying an annual amount of Rs700 million for research on cotton seed, but all in vain.
“Nearly 40 mills have already been closed down during the last four months but the promises made by both the prime minister and finance minister have yet to materialise,” he said
“The government has imposed Rs40 billion in new taxes on IMF instructions against a loan of $500 million,” he said, noting that the textile industry has already lost $800 million worth of exports.
POLICIES TO ABSORB SKILLED LABOUR NEEDED: SBP
Dawn, December 13th, 2015
KARACHI: The State Bank of Pakistan’s (SBP) annual report issued on Friday included some concerning reports of the World Bank and analysed the situation that is alarming and threatening for the country’s economy.
“Even if Pakistan grows at an average growth of 8.3 per cent, it will not be able to reach the income level of OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries before the year 2050,” the SBP report said, quoting a World Bank report on development.
However, with such growth Pakistan would be able to absorb the labour force and get closer to developed economies. The Vision 2025 already targets GDP to grow above 8pc from 2018 and onwards; this performance will elevate the country from lower-middle-income to upper-middle income level, it said.
“Certainly, this will be a challenging task, as a review of historical trends clearly shows very few occasions when the GDP growth had exceeded the 8pc level,” said the report.
The SBP report said that more than 40pc of the workforce in Pakistan is still engaged in low-productive agriculture sector (and also vulnerable to potential climate changes), which contributes only one-fifth of GDP.
“On the other hand, industry (where labour productivity is highest) absorbs 23pc of the labour, and it has performed poorly in recent years,” said the report. Low and falling share of industry in GDP and its concentration in a few sub-sectors (like textile and sugar) is a major concern, the SBP said, and suggested: “We need policies to absorb skilled labour in most productive sectors of the economy.”
The central bank noted that Pakistan’s rank in Global Competitiveness Index has slipped from 83rd (out of 131) in 2006-07 to 129th (out of 144) now. “In this situation, the burden to steer productivity growth and create sufficient jobs for growing workforce falls on the service sector.”
However, even the growth of the service sector is far lower than peer countries in the region, said the report.
We need to transform the economy by improving productivity across all sectors. Investment is an essential pillar of growth; Pakistan will have to substantially raise its investment rate from the current 15.1pc of GDP (public and private sectors).
Pakistan is one of the most water-stressed countries in the world. According to World Bank estimates, per capita availability of water in Pakistan is well below Afghanistan, India, Bangladesh and Somalia. This stress is likely to worsen further in view of growing population and stagnant supply.
Moreover, despite being categorised as one of the most water-stressed countries in the world, Pakistan still allows large losses and inefficient use of water, the report said. “This is alarming as water scarcity is likely to only worsen going forward due to growing population and urbanisation.”
In this situation, conservation of water through containing losses and improving productivity becomes the only viable option, it added.
Addressing the water scarcity, an equally important issue, is far more complicated as it requires close coordination between federal and provincial governments, it said, adding: “What we need is more storage to capture seasonal surpluses, and an appropriate pricing to incentivise water conservation.”
NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD NOVEMBER 30TH TO DECEMBER 6TH, 2015
STUDY IDENTIFIES MAJOR HURDLES IN WAY OF JUSTICE FOR MIGRANT WORKERS
Dawn, November 30th, 2015
LAHORE: Ineffective complaint mechanisms coupled with missing coordination among grievance registration and redressing systems, and lack of awareness about their availability have been identified as major hurdles in access to justice for the migrant workers in a study.
Conducted by the Punjab labour department with the support of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the study has also prepared some suggestions to rectify the situation as thousands of grievances are piling up with various authorities.
The report will be shared with the federal authorities by the ILO soon.
The purpose of the study was to see where and how a complaint could be enlisted, how it could be followed up, how easy it is to get a complaint registered, lay claims (if any) and get compensation, an ILO official told Dawn.
Including the protectorates under the Overseas Pakistanis Ministry, community welfare attaches at foreign missions, Overseas Pakistanis Foundation and Federal/Punjab ombudsman multiple forums are available to workers to lodge their complaints both within and outside the country but their impact was not visible underlining the need for flagging the gaps and weaknesses in the existing mechanisms, argued Saadia Hameed, national programme officer for ILO’s South Asia labour migration governance project.
The Bureau of Emigrants, which does not have an online complaint system, through its seven protectorates in the country received 436 complaints during 2013-2015.
About 90 per cent of them were against overseas employment promoters and 10pc about a breach of contract in the destination countries. But they don’t share the action taken on the complaints other than giving vague statements that the promoters were made to pay for their ‘sins’.
Whereas, the OPF receives 6,000 plus complaints per year on an average on issues ranging from foreign exchange remittances to passport, death and disability compensation, repatriation, airlines, passport and OPF itself, shows the data available with the Foundation’s IT department. The disposal rate is around 75pc.
The complaint cell at the Federal Ombudsman office says it received 1,100 plus complaints from migrant workers, while the Punjab Ombudsman was approached by 11,873 migrant workers in just one year. (In the latter case, all the complaints were related to provincial departments).
The Federal Ombudsman recommended relief in 15 cases, rejecting 415 complaints as not admissible. But the statistics with the Punjab Ombudsman office did not categorize the complaints from migrant workers.
Dawn, December 2nd, 2015
The writer is an industrial relations professional
BY virtue of the 18th Amendment introduced in April 2010, labour laws were omitted from the Concurrent Legislative List in the Constitution and devolved to the provinces. It was stated that the process of devolution of the subjects on the list to the provinces should be completed by June 30, 2011.
The Punjab government was most active in this regard and took the lead in devolving a number of labour laws before the stipulated date, followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The governments of Balochistan and Sindh remained dormant till they adopted the Industrial Relations Act in 2010 and 2013 respectively. In most cases, the legislatures only prefixed the names of their respective provinces before the title of the laws and substituted the word ‘federal’ with ‘provincial’ wherever it appeared in the text without making any other change.
The provincial governments are supposed to exercise their authority judiciously without causing any harm to the interests of the workers and their employers. Politicising a sensitive area like industrial relations may lead to labour unrest and agitation by labour leaders.
One example of this approach is the retracting of the law made by the Punjab government imposing limitations on the right to freedom of association. A restriction was imposed vide section 3(i) of the Punjab Industrial Relations Act, 2010, that workers of an establishment employing less than 50 workers could not form a union. This provision was in contravention of the Constitution and a convention of the ILO on the freedom of association. The government was forced to withdraw it after strong protests.
Similarly, the KP government attached stringent conditions to the employment of a contract worker appointed for a specified period as mentioned in the letter of contract. An amendment to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Industrial and Commercial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 2012, provided that the employer should obtain a prior ‘no-objection certificate’ from the director, labour, valid only for six months, to contract out jobs that were of a peripheral nature and not related to the basic production/activities of the establishment. The recruitment of contract workers has therefore become difficult for employers in KP.
The management and administrative control of two of the legislations generating huge funds collected from the employers namely the Employees’ Old-Age Benefits Act, 1976 (EOBA) and the Workers’ Welfare Fund (WWF) Ordinance, 1971 has so far remained with the federal government. These two legislations are the focal points of complications for the federal government and employers on account of devolution. The complexities have further escalated due to the promulgation of the Sindh Employees’ Old-Age Benefits Act, 2014 and the Sindh Workers Welfare Fund Act 2014, to the exclusion of the other three provinces.
Through an amendment in 2005, the definition of wages under EOBA was changed to “wages means the rates of wages as declared under the Minimum Wages for Unskilled Workers Ordinance, 1969”. It implied that the monthly contributions would be paid to EOBI on the prescribed percentages of the applicable rate of minimum wages under this ordinance. This was Rs3,000 in 2005 and after gradual increments every year increased to Rs6,000 in 2008.
After the 18th Amendment, the minimum wages were increased to Rs7,000 per month in 2010 and to Rs8,000/ 9,000 in 2012 by the respective provinces under the Minimum Wages Ordinance, 1961 and not under the 1969 ordinance. However, the definition of wages under EOBA was not amended. Although the employers were not obliged to pay the contribution at the enhanced rate of wages, they complied with the directives issued to this effect by EOBI.
Thereafter, the minimum wages have been increased to Rs10,000 in 2013, Rs12,000 in 2014 and Rs13,000 in 2015 respectively, but still the majority of employers continue to pay the contribution on Rs8,000. Out of five large companies and two hospitals of repute surveyed, two companies and the hospitals are paying contributions on Rs8,000 and three companies at the applicable minimum wage rate, which is now Rs13,000 per month. EOBI is completely silent on the issue.
Moreover, companies making profits allocate 5pc of their annual profit before tax for distribution amongst eligible workers under the Companies Profits (Workers’ Participation) Act, 1968.
In addition, they have to pay 2pc of profit before tax on total income, to the WWF. After distribution of a meagre amount to the workers, a huge amount of the companies’ profits also goes to the WWF. After devolution, companies are perplexed whether to pay their share of the WWF to the federal or to the provincial government. The Sindh government is now pressing the federal government to release its share of the funds under the two acts.
NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD NOVEMBER 17TH TO NOVEMBER 22ND, 2015
CPEC TO CAUSE UNEMPLOYMENT IN GILGIT-BALTISTAN
The Express Tribune, November 17th, 2015
ISLAMABAD: The much-publicised China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) may benefit many, but it will render more than 10,000 people of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) jobless once the existing dry port is relocated from Sost in G-B to Havelian in Hazara division of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
There is no industry in the whole of G-B and more than 10,000 people are associated with the Sost dry port including businessmen, transporters, hoteliers and other people, whose livelihood is directly and indirectly linked with the port.
The people of G-B are concerned about their future as the federal government has not given any concrete assurance in black and white for establishing economic zones in the region to compensate the people.
At present, trucks and containers loaded in China are off-loaded at the Sost dry port for customs clearance, which automatically generates economic activities for local traders, labourers, transporters and trade agents.
It is stated that unlike the existing situation, under the CPEC, all the containers and trucks will be loaded in any city of China and then off-loaded at Havelian and there will be no activity at the Sost port.
“Livelihood of thousands of families of Gilgit-Baltistan is linked with the Sost dry port and it would be an economic disaster for them if existing activities are shifted to the newly proposed dry port at Havelian,” said G-B Chamber of Commerce and Industry former president Javed Hussain. “We will not allow the project to materialise if our concerns are not addressed.”
Former speaker of G-B Legislative Assembly Wazir Baig said, “We are not clear about the benefits of the CPEC we will get, but we are much certain about the adverse effects due to relocation of the dry port,” he noted.
Commenting on the concern, CPEC Project Director Zahir Shah said no relocation of the Sost dry port is on the cards as far as the corridor is concerned.
He said it is premature to say that the Sost port will be redundant once the CPEC project is implemented because long-term planning and negotiations are under way. “As far as I know, it would be more vibrant once the project is completed,” he said.
Meanwhile, sources said the land that had been acquired for the dry port in Havelian belongs to some key influential politicians and they are influencing the government to shift the dry port.
PRIVATE SCHOOL TEACHERS IN KP LEFT HIGH AND DRY
The News, November 19, 2015
PESHAWAR: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government is facing accusations that it deprived thousands of male and female teachers employed at the private educational institutions of their legal right of minimum wages.
The Labour Federation Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and a number of teachers complained that the words ‘private educational institutions’ was deleted from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minimum Wage Act 2013 to effectively deny the right to minimum wage to teachers working at the private schools and colleges.
As per the notification issued on May 5, 2015, the provincial government notified in the official gazette that “In clause (vi) of sub-section 1 of section 2 of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minimum Wages Act 2013 the words and comma ‘private educational institutions’ shall be deleted.”
The provincial government made this amendment to the law on the recommendation of Qaumi Watan Party (QWP)’s Member of Provincial Assembly (MPA) Meraj Humayun.
The QWP has recently rejoined the PTI-headed provincial government. The amendment was titled “Amendment of Certain Laws.”
Labour Federation Khyber Pakhtunkhwa president Rahim Shah told The News that the amendments were made secretly as many members of the provincial cabinet owned private educational institutions in the province. “The amendment was made to avoid action by the Labour Department. The majority of the famous private educational institutions are violating the KP Minimum Wage Act 2013,” he said, adding that the amendments were made under a conspiracy.
An official of the Labour Department told The News that all cases against the private educational institutions were withdrawn from the Labour Court after the amendments to the Act.
He said the department had filed cases against the known private schools in Peshawar that were not paying salaries to teachers as per the Minimum Wage Act 2013.
Also, the Labour Court had started imposing fine up to Rs50,000 on the schools that were not paying Rs12,000, which is the minimum monthly salary under the said Act.
Official sources said the Act was amended after the Labour Department and Labour Court started taking action against the private educational institutions.
The provincial government through the amendments once again left the teachers in private educational institutions at the mercy of the management schools as majority of them are getting salaries less than Rs12,000. The private school teachers across the province are underprivileged in terms of perks and salary compared to those with secure jobs in government institutions.
Muhammad Ibrar, a teacher in a private school, said he was getting Rs5,000 only as monthly salary. He said there was no regulatory authority to check and monitor the private schools in the province.
Jehangir, another teacher of a private school, said that private institutions in urban areas paid good salaries, but teachers in rural areas were mostly underpaid. He said the school owners exploited the young people due to the rising unemployment.
Rahim Shah, the provincial president of the Labour Federation, and private schools teachers criticised the PTI-led provincial government for depriving the teachers of their right.
NEW SURVEY HIGHLIGHTS GAPS IN IMPLEMENTATION OF LABOUR LAWS
KARACHI: As the world celebrated Decent Work Day on October 7, a new survey revealed urgent need for countries including Pakistan to implement and uphold existing laws to address labour issues.
Called the Decent Work Survey, the global review of national labour laws was conducted by University of Amsterdam’s WageIndicator Foundation and covers 35 indicators in 131 countries.
The data helps Pakistani employees compare their work conditions with the international labour standards and how they are applied in the country. Though Pakistan is on the right track in terms of labour legislation, an assessment of the 35 indicators reveals unique trends such as low minimum age for hazardous work and no provision for ‘equal pay for equal work’ or for breastfeeding breaks.
“Pakistan, along with India, is the only country which has the minimum age for hazardous work set as 14 years instead of 18 years; the country also has no law to promote non-discrimination in employment-related matters,” said Iftikhar Ahmad, a labour law expert at WageIndicator Foundation.
Ahmad heads the Pakistan team of the foundation. His team also found out Pakistan does not have any unemployment benefit system nor any law which requires equal pay to women workers for work of equal value.
The legal expert, however, shared Pakistan was among one of the few countries in the world which provide both civil remedies as well criminal penalties in the case of sexual harassment. “This must be appreciated,” he said, also pointing out Pakistan has 12 weeks of maternity leave while in USA, there was no statutory provision on paid or unpaid maternity leave. The evaluation of the labour legislation further revealed Pakistan was among those countries which provide highest compensation for overtime (151-200%).
With 131 countries providing legislation to protect workers against inhumane labour practices, the bigger test is of compliance and implementation of those laws. International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Country Director for Pakistan Francesco d’Ovidio said the country was progressing quite well in adopting laws but there were many gaps and challenges in implementation.
Ahmad also added that apart from not having independent laws on occupational safety, health and non-discrimination, Pakistan lacks appropriate inspection services. “The implementation situation is quite weak and the government needs to reform its labour inspection system by not only hiring more labour inspectors but also bringing more transparency in the labour market,” Ahmad stressed.
He said since devolution of labour matters to provinces, labour rights in Pakistan have deteriorated. “Federal governments elsewhere in the world set a minimum standard to be followed by federating units but this did not happen in Pakistan; under the devolution plan, now every province has the right to enact its own legislation and there is a race towards the bottom with no genuine reforms implemented,” he said.
The ILO country director agreed certain provinces were doing better than the others and mentioned Punjab and Balochistan as making significant efforts in ending child and forced labour. He assured Pakistan was serious in its intentions to address these issues.
On lack of clear law on ‘equal pay for equal work’, d’Ovidio stated it was one of the major issues to address. He also shared that the government has requested ILO to come up with a formula to decide ideal minimum wage. “Minimum wages are not decided objectively and the government has asked for our input to make this fair,” he said.
In agreement with WageIndicator Foundation and ILO country director’s assessment, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s (HRCP) legal adviser Mehboob Khan said implementation of the laws was the real task at hand and that it was the state’s responsibility to ensure compliance.
RAILWAY WORKERS: INSURANCE, SERVICE STRUCTURE
The Express Tribune, October 8th, 2015
LAHORE: Federal Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique has announced that an insurance and service structure would be put in place for the employees of Pakistan Railways by the end of this year. Speaking to the railway workers at the Railways Engine Shed, he said the labourers had been living in shabby houses for a long time, but now a policy had been evolved to build new quarters in place of luxury houses for the officers. He revealed that the audit of railway land had begun and each and every yard would be computerised by year-end. “Pakistan Railways has been facing its worst crisis in the last 67 years; even a minister had advised to close the company altogether, but despite that the railways stood back on its feet and is earning revenues,” he said, adding it earned Rs32 billion by June 2015 and paid Rs6 billion in arrears to the workers. He said Pakistan Railways was a national asset and it would not be handed over to any ‘seth’.
QATAR OPENS MEGA-CAMP FOR 70,000 WORKERS
Monday, November 02, 2015
DOHA: Qatar officially opened the country’s biggest workers’ accommodation camp on Sunday, with enough space to house almost 70,000 labourers.
“Labour City” which also contains two police stations, Qatar’s second largest mosque and cost some $825 million to build, will house 68,640 workers when it reaches full capacity.
It was unveiled by Prime Minister Abdullah bin Nasser Al-Thani and the Labour Minister Abdullah al-Khulaifi in a ceremony in the capital Doha.
The site is currently around 60 percent full and houses workers from various countries including Nepal, India, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.
Mohammed al-Maraghi, a manager with the Naaas Group, which is overseeing the site, said “Labour City” was the “model” for other camps and bigger sites may follow.
Khulaifi has said Qatar plans to build seven “cities” to house almost 260,000 labourers, brought to work on major infrastructure projects, notably for football’s 2022 World Cup which the country is hosting.
The decision to build more modern facilities comes after constant criticism of the squalid and crowded accommodation provided by Qatar for the vast numbers of migrant workers in the country.
Each room at Labour City should accommodate no more than four workers and daily inspections will be carried out to ensure that number is not breached, officials said Sunday.
The unveiling came the day before a major labour reform — the Wage Protection System — comes into force.
This should guarantee labourers get paid on time with salaries electronically transferred to their bank accounts.
Last week, Qatar was again widely criticised after announcing “inadequate” changes to its “kafala” labour system for foreign workers, which places restrictions on when workers can leave the country and switch job contracts.