KARACHI: The Sindh government on Saturday unveiled its first labour policy and termed it “a framework of industrial relations, social and economic well-being of the people of the province”.

The government said the Sindh Labour Policy 2018 was formed after duly consulting all stakeholders involved.

Speaking at the event to launch the policy, Labour Minister Nasir Shah said: “This is the first tripartite labour policy which has unanimously been approved by the government, workers and employers; they have agreed on the need of working through joint cooperation.”

He said that the Pakistan Peoples Party always worked for the betterment of the poor of the country. Senior Sindh Minister Nisar Khuhro, who is also the provincial president of the ruling PPP, was also present.

Mr Khuhro said Feb 10 had historical significance as it was the day when the first-ever labour policy in the country was implemented by former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1972, which could not continue due to his ouster by military dictator Gen Ziaul Haq.

Minister claims the policy has been approved by govt, workers and employers

He said since Sindh was the country’s industrial hub, it needed a labour policy which should also be industry friendly.

“We hope other provinces will follow suit,” said Minister Shah, who also holds the portfolio of information.

He said the policy would also cover workers in agriculture, home-based and other sectors and ensure complete gender parity.

Mr Khuhro said all the stakeholders should help the government to make necessary amendments in the policy to ensure the laws enshrined in it are passed by the provincial legislature in the coming weeks.

Ingrid Christensen, the country director of the International Labour Organisation, called the formulation of the policy a huge achievement, saying it should also be followed by other provinces.

She praised the government’s efforts and said her organisation would be there to make it a success.

Representatives from workers and employers including Karamat Ali, Habibuddin Junaidi, Majyd Aziz, Siraj Kassam Teli and others also spoke.

Policy guidelines

According to the policy guidelines of the new labour policy, a system would be developed in collaboration with employers to train skilled labour force; special measures would be taken to create more employment opportunities in the private sector in rural and urban areas; industrial support centres would be established to set up industries in the rural areas for the unemployed labour force and to support the rural economy; favourable social environment free from harassment at workplace with ‘guaranteed’ equal remuneration to women.

It said the Sindh government would collect ‘actual data’ of child labour to streamline those children into schools and their disengagement from work with economic assistance.

Contract labour system to be regulated

It promised that workers’ rights to form and join unions would be provided; amendments would be made in the existing labour laws to establish industry-wide trade unionism; and labour laws would be consistent with international conventions and recommendations duly ratified and accepted by the Sindh government.

Besides, contract labour system would be regulated in the light of existing labour laws and in line with the orders of the superior courts.

It said a Sindh home-based workers board would be established to monitor the rights and duties of home-based workers and to collect the data of those workers.

Besides, comprehensive legislation would be made for farm workers to ensure freedom of association and create an atmosphere of recognition of their rights by landlords; and employment laws would be legislated and institutions as per requirement should be established for agriculture workers.

Social security and old-age pension benefit would be enhanced to every industrial and commercial worker; these benefits would also be provided to agriculture, mining and home-based workers. Social security and EOBI would be made universal.

Minimum wage council

Apart from making radical changes to ensure such benefits and compensation to dependents, along with parents, of workers, the new policy’s guidelines say minimum wages will be replaced with ‘real wages’ for which a Minimum Wages Council will be established to determine minimum wages for skilled and unskilled workers.

The decision of labour court and labour appellate tribunal would be made within 60 days; and labour welfare scheme would be extended to ensure distribution of five per cent to all workers under the Workers Participation Act.

The Sindh government would launch a survey of the workers in informal sectors and legislate terms and conditions for them; online registration of all workers, industries, shops and establishments would be made.

The labour policy was called ‘investment friendly’ which would facilitate industrialists for boosting economic activities in the province to attract local and international investors.

Tripartite committees will be established in all industrial zones to address the grievances of workers; facilitation desks would be established in the offices of the Sindh Employees Social Security Institution’s commissioner, directorate of labour, workers welfare board secretary and assistant commissioner-mines, labour welfare organisation to facilitate industrialists and redress the grievances of workers.

The policy also claimed to ensure a ‘complete eradication’ of child labour and bonded labour from Sindh.

Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2018

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