PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court has declared illegal the provincial government’s move to end the applicability of labour laws, including the one about the minimum wages, to the private educational institutions in the province through amendments to them.

Justice Ikramullah Khan and Justice Ishtiaq Ibrahim accepted a petition filed by lawyer Saleem Shah Hoti challenging the end of applicability of labour laws to privately-owned schools and colleges.

The petitioner claimed that several lawmakers, including the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly’s speaker, owned educational institutions and therefore, the laws were amended to end their applicability to private schools and colleges.

Lawyer had moved PHC claiming schools exploiting teachers

The bench pronounced a short order after both parties completed arguments on the petition.

Mr Hoti, who had filed the petition in the larger public interest, said private educational institutions in the province had been subjecting teachers to the worst form of exploitation and that they had been removed from the purview of the labour department for being owned by several lawmakers.

The labour department had supported the petitioner’s stand saying it had opposed the law amendments in question.

Mr Hoti said the province had no law to regulate the salary of teachers and other staff and working conditions for them.

He said in 2015, the provincial assembly had passed the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (Amendment Laws) Act, 2015, amending different labour laws, including the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Payment of Wages Act, 2013, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Industrial and Commercial Employment (Standing Orders), 2013, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minimum Wages Act, 2013, and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Industrial Statistics Act, 2013.

The petitioner said after those amendments, the labour laws in question didn’t apply to private educational institutions in the province.

He said after the enforcement of the Constitution (Eighteenth Amendment) Act 2010, the four labour laws in question were passed by the provincial assembly for the welfare of the people working in private sector educational institutions.

Mr Hoti said those laws were meant to regulate the minimum wages to certain classes of persons employed in factories, industrial establishment and commercial establishment, regulate the payment of wages, provide for regulation of industrial and commercial employment in the province, and facilitate the collection of statistics of certain kinds relating to factories, and industrial and commercial establishments.

He claimed the minimum monthly salary had been fixed at the rate of Rs15,000 in the province, while the private educational institutions had employed highly educated and qualified male and female teachers and ancillary staff members for few thousand rupees, which was both disrespectful and insufficient for them.

The counsel for private schools said the petitioner was not an aggrieved person and therefore, this petition was not maintainable.

He said the government had enacted the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Private Schools Regulatory Authority Act, 2017, ending the need for the applicability of labour laws to private schools.

The lawyer said it was up to the regulator to regulate the salaries of teachers.

The petitioner referred to a judgment of the Supreme Court arguing that even ordinary persons could file a petition in issues related to public interest.

He added that his children had also been studying in schools due to which he was also an aggrieved person and was empowered to file the instant petition.

Mr Hoti said the labour laws related to all staffers of private schools, whereas the Regulatory Authority law was only related to teachers.

Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2018