Lahore, May 31: The whole system of labour courts and tribunals needs to be reviewed if the goal of expeditious and fair adjudication of labour cases is to be realised. This is the main recommendation of the expert group comprising trade union representatives, lawyers specialising in labour cases and civil society organizations that met the other day and whose findings have been released here today by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) head office.
The meeting was of the view that the working of labour courts and tribunals could not be viewed in isolation from the state’s attitude towards the rights and problems of workers. As the government had little time for drawing up a labour policy or any programme for labour’s uplift it tended to ignore the need to make the forums for redress of labour’s grievances efficient and effective.
The experts’ group expressed concern that a large number of workers could not access labour courts. Either they had no documents to establish their employment by their employers or they did not fall in the legal definition of workmen. This problem needed to be resolved on priority basis.
The new provincial labour laws, except for the one adopted by Balochistan, did not explicitly provide for the high courts’ right to oversee the working of labour courts/tribunals, especially in the matter of appointment of their presiding officers. The supervisory role of the high courts needed to be explicitly defined.
The load of work at most of the labour forums was quite heavy and it was causing delays. The number of labour courts, or at least the number of judges at the existing courts, should be increased.
The group favoured the creation of a judicial service exclusively trained in labour laws but if that was not possible the training of labour courts’ judges in labour rights and disputes could not be delayed.
Another recommendation was that labour laws should be included as a compulsory subject in the curriculum of law schools/academies.
The group was concerned at the lack of attention to the urgency of revising labour laws and making them more just and equitable.
Finally the group called upon trade unions not to rely wholly on the government functionaries’ plans and policies and to train their members for effective advocacy in support of workers who were unlawfully dealt with by their employers.
(I. A. Rehman)