Naeem Sadiq speaks at the Press Club on Saturday. —White Star
Naeem Sadiq speaks at the Press Club on Saturday. —White Star

KARACHI: The Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) on Saturday held a seminar on the ‘Situation of implementation of the minimum wages law’ in the light of Sindh High Court’s decision regarding the janitors who work for the cantonment.

It was demanded that the government ensure payment of the minimum wages to all workers especially the janitors working with civic bodies, security guards and petrol pump workers.

The event was held at the Karachi Press Club.

Rights activist Naeem Sadiq, the main petitioner in the matter, said that he had been contacted by a few of his friends concerned about very low wages of sanitary workers, security guards, etc.

Over 95pc workers do not receive any social security benefits from state institutions

“These workers are mostly hired by private contractors who don’t even pay them half of what is their right. And they are not even entitled to social security and old-age benefits. Sindh Employees Social Security Institution (Sessi) and Employees Old-age Benefit Institution (EOBI) along with the provincial labour department should implement the recent SHC decision [on March 10, 2021] for payment of minimum wages to the janitor staff or sanitary workers,” he said.

He regretted that despite there being a set minimum wage in Pakistan, there was no implementation on paying it.

‘60pc Pakistani workers not getting minimum wages’

“The minimum wages already fall short of the expenditures or required living wages. And there are over 60 per cent workers in Pakistan who are not even getting that,” he said, adding that over 95pc workers do not even receive any social security benefits from state institutions.

While welcoming the SHC’s verdict in favour of the janitors, he said now it is a role of the implementation bodies of the state to ensure payment of at least minimum wages to these poor workers.

“We had conducted a survey on the living conditions of Cantonment Board Clifton’s janitors who are facing a lot of problems during the current price hike,” he said.

He said his group of friends wrote to the civic organisations concerned asking about the salaries of janitors in their offices but did not receive any reply.

“That was when we filed applications under the Right to Information [law]. Still, we got a poor response. Then through a senior lawyer, Faisal Siddiqi, the concerned citizens filed a constitutional petition in the Sindh High Court. It was after two years of lengthy legal proceedings that the court gave a historical judgement ordering the civic bodies to pay the minimum wages as set by the government to all workers even if they happened to have been hired through contractors.

“The court also asked the authorities to make payment of salaries through banking channels, ensure registration with Sessi and EOBI and provide workers appointment letters,” he informed.

“Within a span of one day, the salaries of janitors at the Cantonment Board Clifton were increased from Rs12,500 to 17,500. The wages of the employees of other sectors are also very low especially for those working at petrol pumps and those working as private security guards,” he said.

He also aired his disappointment that the civil society in Karachi did not play its role in raising its voice for the rights of the downtrodden and vulnerable sections of society. The EOBI and Sessi are state institutions and they have to ensure implementation of the minimum wages under the law.

‘Unemployment allowance’

Also speaking on the occasion, Piler’s executive director Karamat Ali said that according to a recent report by the World Bank, Pakistani citizens are earning less than two dollars per day, which adds up to much less than the set minimum wages. He backed Mr Sadiq on the need to implement the SHC orders.

Nasir Mansoor of the National Trade Union Federation demanded that unemployment allowance be included in the social security services.

He pointed out that during the Covid-19 lockdown of last year, the private sector simply refused to pay salaries to their workers despite the fact that a special law was passed by the Sindh government to pay salaries to their workers.

“A large number of workers in the industries of Karachi were removed from their jobs during the lockdown last year and the government failed to implement its own law,” he said.

Published in Dawn, April 4th, 2021

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