Participants at a consultation discuss the draft Sindh Labour Code on Saturday.—Dawn
Participants at a consultation discuss the draft Sindh Labour Code on Saturday.—Dawn

KARACHI: Workers’ representatives from across the country at a meeting held on Saturday unanimously rejected the “Sindh Labour Code” proposal of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) which, they said, provided legal cover to different forms of the contractual employment system.

The ILO has provided technical assistance to the Sindh government in drafting the Labour Code.

The consultation meeting of labour representatives was organised by the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) at a local hotel.

The meeting concluded with demands for strengthening the tripartite mechanism, calling upon Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and the Sindh chief minister to intervene and stop the attack on labour rights.

Labour leaders reject ILO’s Sindh Labour Code, ask Bilawal, CM Murad to stop ‘attack on labour rights’

The participants were of the view that the labour code was proposed on the pretext of consolidating more than 20 labour laws. But, it was actually an attempt to provide legal cover to the dangerous anti-labour contract system, they alleged.

They said that workers’ representatives were not consulted in the preparation of that proposal and that no labour legislation would be accepted without their consultation.

The meeting expressed concern that the ILO representatives and the Sindh labour department had termed the proposal a milestone during their meeting with the Sindh chief minister.

“The labour code is illegal according to both international and local laws. It will deprive workers of their right to fight against the contract system and pave the way for privatisation and flexible employment practices being pushed forward by foreign donor agencies,” NTUF secretary general Nasir Mansoor said, adding that many children worked as labourers in factories and other workplaces.

State Bank of Pakistan’s labour leader Liaquat Sahi criticised the involvement of provincial labour departments in formulating the proposed code and described it as a charge sheet against the PPP government in Sindh.

He accused the ILO of acting as the front man for employers in the region and warned that the proposed law would undermine the trade union movement. He suggested an outright rejection of the proposed code instead of proposing counter legislation.

Farhat Parveen representing NOW Communities, however, proposed that trade union representatives review each law considering relevant ILO conventions and form committees to address different aspects of the law.

She highlighted the absence of corresponding labour laws regarding women and suggested that trade unions draft their own proposals for improvement.

An official of the Sindh Human Rights Commission (SHRC) told the meeting that the commission would invite its own technical experts to write to the government, stating that there was no provision in the law to enact that labour code.

Qamarul Hassan of Allied Workers’ Associations expressed reservation over the process of making Sindh Labour Code, questioning why labour representatives were not consulted and why the tripartite commission was not approached.

Qazi Khizer representing the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan shared that powerful quarters of the state were backing such legislation.

An estimated 2.2 million cases, he pointed out, were pending in courts, resulting in a very slow dispensation of justice. Twenty-eight bills were presented in the National Assembly and passed without any debate.

Published in Dawn, June 9th, 2024

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