Unions call for reform in labour law

Lahore, August 29: Leaders of trade unions from the Lahore region have called upon the federalgovernment to make some essential changes in the Industrial Relations Ordinance2011 and get it approved by parliament as early as possible. The demand wasmade after a review of the new ordinance at a meeting organized the other dayby the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).

The meeting welcomed the Industrial Relations Ordinance 2011for providing for trade union activities and resolution of industrial disputesin the federal capital and for facilitating the registration and functioning oftrans-provincial trade unions. The meeting drew the attention of the governmentto the Supreme Court ruling on the post-eighteenth amendment situation andpleaded for early action to meet the objection to its authority to legislatefor trans-provincial unions / establishments. At the same time the meeting emphasised the government’s obligation to ensurecompliance with international treaties (such as ILO Convention 87) and thearguments advanced in this respect by the ILO experts.

The labour leaders made a strongplea for legislation to cover the rights of workers in the informal sector,which had grown much bigger than the formal sector. It was necessary to allowworkers engaged by different employers to form unions and to encourageunionization of agricultural workers.

As regards the 2011 ordinance some of the recommendationsmade by the meeting were:

a)                The bar to formation of general trade unions in anindustry, even when workers were serving many employers must be removed.

b)                The exclusion of the security staff of PIA andPakistan Security Printing Corporation or the Security Papers Limited may bedeleted.

c)                 In the definition of “lock-out” theworkers and employers should be placed on the same footing.

d)                The definition of “business” shouldinclude “industry-wise trade unions having membership in more than oneprovince”.

e)                The condition that each establishment must have twotrade unions is absurd and it must be dropped.

f)                   The provision that in case of a trade union havingmembership of more than 5,000 workers or more in more than one province, theperiod of Collective Bargaining Agency shall be increased from two to threeyears is welcome. For such trade unions the term of office-bearers should alsobe three years.

g)                Section 11(5) may be deleted because it says that incase an officer of the trade union is elected in violation of Section 18 theregistration of the union shall be cancelled. This is a totally unjustprovision.

h)                 The government has assumed the power to appoint the Registrarof Industry-wise Trade Unions. He may be appointed in consultation with theChairman of the National Industrial Relations Commission. Likewise the authorityto appoint presiding officers of labour courts shouldbe transferred from the government to the superior judiciary.

The prominent labour leadersattending the meeting included Mr KhurshidAhmad, Mr Mohammad Yaqub, Mr Yusuf Balochand Mr Altaf Baloch.

( I. A. Rehman )
Secretary-General, HRCP

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