PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Tuesday suspended the notification of the minimum wage of unskilled workers at Rs15,000 per month and asked the provincial government to form a wage board under the relevant law to determine the minimum wage.
A bench comprising Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth and Justice Mohammad Daud Khan disposed of 20 petitions against the last year’s minimum wages notification asking the government to constitute a board to determine the minimum wage in a month.
It also asked the government to produce the compliance report afterwards and observed that until then, the impugned notification would remain suspended.
Asks government to form wage board
The minimum wages notification was issued by the labour department on Sept 9, 2014. It came into effect on July 1, 2014.
The petitions filed by industrial units, including textile mills, sought the court’s intervention for declaring the Sept 9 notification without lawful authority.
Through the notification, the government enhanced the minimum wage of unskilled workers from Rs10,000 to Rs15,000 a month.
Qazi Ghulam Dastagir, Abdul Lateef Afridi, Rehmanullah Shah and Ibrahim Shah, lawyers for the petitioners, said the impugned notification was issued in contravention of the Section 3 of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minimum Wages Act, 2013.
They said under that section, the provincial government was required to establish the Minimum Wages Board with equal representation of employers and employees.
Qazi Ghulam Dastagir said the government fixed Rs15,000 per month as the minimum wage without seeking the recommendations of the board.
“The government is not competent or authorised to declare wages except the board recommended it. It is bound to establish or constitute the Minimum Wages Board with an independent chairman, independent member and a member each from the industry and employees as members,” he said.
About the textile industry, the lawyer said the country’s textile industry had more than 60 percent share in the country’s exports valuing around $5.2 billion and around 46 percent share in the nationwide industrial production.
He said Pakistan was the eighth largest exporter of textile products in Asia.
The lawyer said the industry had so much financial challenges that it was unable to pay such high wages to unskilled workers.
He also challenged Section 2 (XIII) of the Act, which defines a juvenile worker, saying it was contrary to Article 25A of the Constitution as the Article imposed a positive duty on the State to ensure free education to children between five years to 16 years of age.
The lawyer said through the impugned notification, the government instead of ensuring provision of free education to juvenile labourers was encouraging them to jobs by enhancing wages.
He said such acts on part of the government had a very negative impact on the future of the land.
The respondents in the petition were the provincial government through the labour secretary, provincial law secretary, the Minimum Wages Board chairman, labour department director, and relevant assistant directors of the department.
A representative of the labour department accompanied by a lawyer said the government was competent to fix the minimum wages for workers and that the notification issued in that respect was meant for the welfare of workers.
Published in Dawn, March 4th, 2015