LAHORE: Under pressure from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and labour unions, the Punjab government is withdrawing the condition of at least 50 employees for forming a workers’ union in an industrial unit.

The condition is being withdrawn by amending the Punjab Industrial Relations Act 2010, which was passed by the Punjab Assembly after labour was devolved to provinces under the 18th Amendment. Earlier, the law was called the Industrial Relations Ordinance and did not contain such a condition. No other province had introduced the clause while adopting their respective laws.

Amendment to the law was submitted in the provincial assembly in its last session, and sources said the standing committee to which it was referred to for a report, cleared it on Tuesday.

The amendment bill was likely to be passed during this month as the government intended to announce withdrawal of the condition on May 1, the International Labour Day.

Under the condition, a union could be formed only if there were at least 50 employees in an industrial unit.

Labour unions had opposed it on the grounds that it disallowed workers of small units to form their groups and claim facilities under the law. They had also approached the ILO to make the provincial government withdraw the condition.

Medium-sized and even some big units exploited the condition and showed they had less than 50 employees to prevent formation of workers’ unions. This would help them avoid labour laws.

Pakistan Workers Confederation Punjab President Rubina Jameel welcomed the decision and said the withdrawal of the condition would help workers of small and medium units to form unions and seek benefits such as social security, EOBI pensions and protection under other labour laws.

Labour leader Hanif Ramay said the government was going to correct its mistake that was undermining basic rights of workers.

“Now no industrialist will be able to pretend that he has less than 50 employees therefore his unit cannot have a workers’ union. The government decision will also disallow industrialists from stopping workers from seeking facilities and protection under several laws,” he said.

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