ISLAMABAD: The Sup­reme Court has been asked to overturn the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) Feb 28 order of suspending amendments to the Provincial Employees Social Security Ordinance, 1965 that allow for enhancing wages of workers from Rs10,000 to 12,500 per month or more, and daily wages from Rs400 to Rs600.

The petition was moved jointly before the apex court by the Punjab Employees Social Security Institution (Pessi), the Punjab Employees Social Security (Pess) Lahore director, and the Pess Sheikhupura director, who argued that the ad-interim relief offered by the high court was issued in violation of the law and principles earlier enunciated by the apex court.

The petition has been filed through Advocate Raheel Kamran Sheikh.

The 1965 ordinance was promulgated by the Punjab government to introduce social security that would ensure certain benefits to workers and their dependents in the event of sickness, maternity, workplace injury or death and medical care of dependents, disablement pension and gratuity, survivor’s pension, death grant in case of death and medical care in case of employment injury, etc. These benefits are covered under Chapter V of the 1965 Ordinance and are specified in Sections 35 to 47A of the ordinance.

Likewise, Pessi was created to protect and secure the interests of low-income workers and employees in the Punjab. The institution strives to provide health care facilities and cash benefits to secured workers and their dependents employed in in­­dus­­trial or commercial establishments operating in the Punjab.

Essentially, the petition argued, the ordinance was in the nature of a beneficial and remedial legislation enacted for the purpose of welfare of labour.

As a result, a number of industrial units — Shafi (Pvt) Ltd, Tanveer Cotton Mills (Pvt) Ltd, Tanveer Spinning, Weaving Mills and five others — approached the high court, challenging the vires of the amendments made to the 1965 ordinance.

According to the petition, a notification issued on Oct 18, 2012, raised the wages of workers to Rs12,500 from Rs10,000 per month or Rs600 from the earlier Rs400 daily wage, whereas, under the notification of Jan 30, 2013 the monthly wage was raised to Rs15,000 from 12,500. Under a notification dated Oct 12, 2014 monthly wages were raised from Rs15,000 to Rs18,000 and the daily wage to Rs750 from Rs600. A notification dated June 15, 2017 raised the monthly wage to Rs22,000 or Rs1,000 per day. But the high court had suspended these notifications and ordered the petitioners to continue contributing the amount of social security payable before the issuance of the notifications, as per law, in which the upper wage ceiling was fixed at Rs10,000 per month or Rs400 daily wage rate.

The petitioners argued that the high court had acted with complete disregard for the law enunciated by the Supreme Court while suspending the notifications.

Published in Dawn, April 30th, 2018

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