PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has decided to act against the industrial establishments not paying the notified minimum wages to their workers in the province.
The relevant officials told Dawn that the department recently took steps to ensure compliance with the government’s determined minimum wages and that they showed positive results as around half of the industries working in the province agreed to pay those wages to their workers through bank accounts.
There are 76,000 workers registered with the labour department.
The officials said they won’t spare those not paying the minimum wages to employees through bank accounts.
They said the labour department recently sought the law department’s opinion on if it could go after the owners of factories not paying minimum wages instead of rounding up their managers.
76,000 workers registered with labour department from across KP
The officials added that the law department replied that a complaint against the employer for the non-payment of the minimum wages through a scheduled bank could be filed under Section 3 read with Section 2(iii) of the KP Payment of Wages Act, 2013, under which the employer was responsible for the payment of wages.
“However, for persons employed otherwise than by a contractor, sub-contractor, headman, middleman or agent, the manager is responsible as enumerated in clause (a) of proviso of section 3 of the said act,” the reply read.
Labour secretary Khayyam Hasan Khan told Dawn that a month ago, the department had launched a drive to ensure the payment of proper wages to labourers in light of the chief secretary’s directions.
He said the labour department’s field staff had visited around 630 industrial units across the province and of them, 329 agreed to pay their workers wages through scheduled banks.
Mr Hasan said those units were set to pay the fixed wages to their employees.
“It is a huge breakthrough for us as more than 50 per cent of the industrial units have agreed,” he said, adding the move would benefit thousands of families across the province as the Hattar Industrial Estate in Haripur district alone employs around 30,000 workers.
The secretary said the remaining units had also agreed to follow the law but had asked for more time to get approval from their owners.
He said the labour department also contacted banks to get their help in the purpose and got a positive response in line with the State Bank of Pakistan guidelines provided for the Asaan Account, which could be opened with credit of Rs5-Rs10 and that the accountholder would get ATM without any cost.
Mr Hasan said banks told the department they were willing to set up ATMs on the factories’ premises to help management and labourers.
“We are going to wait until January before taking action against the factories not complying with the government directions on minimum wages,” he said.
The secretary said initially, the department took up the issue with the industrialists bodies across the province.
“Some of them agreed initially while the others asked for a year’s concession,” he said, adding that the department told industrialists that it was not empowered to provide relaxations in that respect.
Mr Hasan said the KP Payment of Wages Act 2013 provided for payment through a scheduled bank and several factories were not following this, as it allowed them to not pay minimum wage and get away with it.
“Once they start paying through a bank account, they will not be in a position to not pay less to their laborers,” Mr. Hasan said.
The secretary said the labour department had revised daily wages for brick kiln workers after eight years.
“Last time in 2008, brick kiln labourers’ wages were revised,” he said, adding that the department had increased those wages by 2.5 per cent.
Published in Dawn, December 20th, 2017