First of all we
would like to thank all of you for coming to attend this Press Conference
on a very short notice.
We would like to
draw your attention to a very important issue concerning 52 million
workers of the country.
As you are aware,
the federal government has recently announced increase in working hours
both in daily work and over time; it has allowed employers to get female
workers to work in factories till 10 pm in two shifts, and has legalized
the so-called contract work.
fundamental changes in the laws have been made through the Finance Bill
passed during the last budget session of the National Assembly; procedures
provided under the constitution for amendments in any Act of the Parliament
have thus been violated, as the Senate is not allowed to discuss the
Finance Bill. We consider the changes inhuman, against national and
international norms, in violation of international labour laws, and
the ILO Conventions and against the will and spirit of the Constitution
of Pakistan, and the procedure adopted for amendments is totally unconstitutional
and illegal. The changes will result in an even more intensified labour
exploitation especially that of the already marginalized, the poorest
of the poor.
We believe that
these changes have been made under prescription of World Bank, Asian
Development Bank (ADB) and other International Financial Institutions
(IFIs), which would only benefit big multinationals and industrialists.
The government has
made amendments in following laws:
and Establishment Ordinance, 1969
Pakistan Industrial & Commercial Employment (Standing Orders) Ordinance
• Workers Welfare
Fund Ordinance, 1971
Old-age Benefits (EOBI) Act 1976
By amending the
Shops and Establishment Ordinance 1969, the government has increased
daily working hours from 8 to 12 hours. Similarly the compulsory closed
weekly holiday has also been abolished, and through an amendment in
Section 38 and 45 of the Factories Act has allowed the employers to
make female workers work till 10 pm in two shifts. Earlier, female workers
were barred from working in factories before sun rise and after sun
set. A new category of “contract worker” has been added
in the West Pakistan Standing Orders Ordinance 1968. Such workers will
not be entitled to the legal compensation for overtime work. In addition
the duration of the overtime work has been increased from 150 hours
to 624 hours a year for adult and from 100 hours to 468 hours for young
According to the
federal labour ministry these changes have been made to benefit the
workers and to encourage the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). However,
in reality they will have serious adverse implications for the society
in general and working people in particular.
Changes in basic
structure of work-life for workers
Removal of legal protections
Extension in working time
Reduction in overtime compensation
Vulnerability of women workers
Further deterioration in physical health conditions of working communities
Intense mental and
Since the provincial
governments by excessive use of their powers have banned Inspections
provided in the Factories Act 1934, which is again a major violation
of the Constitution, therefore no inspection is conducted these days.
Hence, these changes will lead to further violation of labour rights,
and will adversely impact upon condition of work, working conditions
and health and safety of workers. Besides, these changes will also severely
curtail workers’ capacity to resist exploitative conditions.
Take the example
of increase in working hours. If you increase working hours to 12 and
add two to three hours for commuting then the working period for a day
will range between 14-15 hours. In absence of adequate wages, people
tend to work more resulting in self exploitation. This will badly affect
the physical and mental health of the labour force which is already
malnourished. Workers had given sacrifices and it was after long struggle
that they achieved the right to eight hours a day work and now pushing
them back to 17th century inhuman working hours has no justification
even in the name of increasing workers income. If the government is
serious to increase workers income then it should ensure adequate wages,
decent working conditions and fair labour practices. Government should
by enforcing the minimum wage of Rs. 4, 000 for all workers including
piece rate workers for a maximum 8 working hours a day and 6-day week
laws to make female labour work till 10 pm in two shifts is also an
exploitative step and will result in serious problems for female workers.
The original law had barred women’s work in factories after sunset
giving consideration to socio- cultural situation of women in our societies.
After the amendment employers will have right to ask women workers to
stay till 10 pm in two shifts. If you add commuting time then it means
female workers will be getting back home around 11-12 midnight. The
logic behind not allowing women work after sunset was that they can
also look after kids and take care of household chores. The new timings
will result in conflict between work and home life. Besides, it will
result in family disputes as many people would not allow women to be
out of home till late night.
of contract work with no overtime will result in a situation where a
large number of people will work as temporary employee forever; workers
who work on piece rate will especially suffer due to this change.
in overtime work durations is not only inhuman in nature but will slow
down new job opportunities as those on job will work more and more to
meet their needs. The limit of 150 hours over time per year was made
while keeping in mind human capacity of workers but now when the government
has increased it to 624 hours a year that means it considers workers
machines not humans. Similarly, increase in over time hours from 100
hours to 468 hours for young persons (age 16-18) who make a lager portion
of workforce will affect younger generation and restrict their opportunity
to study after work.
As we all know that
overtime is not paid according to laws which is double of gross salary,
workers will be compelled to spend more hours at work on lower wages.
The situation will be similar that of 17th and 18th centuries when factories
were like prisons and workers were forced to spend unlimited time inside
The government has
also made changes in the operation and coverage of Workers Welfare Fund
and EOBI (Employees Old Age Benefit Institution) which we think is illegal
as these institutions are supposed to be autonomous and therefore should
be allowed to devise their own policies and rules. The fact that the
registration with the EOBI will from now on be compulsory only for establishments
employing 20 or more workers will drastically curtail its applicability
and will also deprive millions of workers from of a fundamental right.
The government has no right to make arbitrary changes and amendments
in these institutions.
Rules and Procedures
to amend any particular law [s] or Act of the Parliament having larger
public implications are already provided in the Constitution and Rules
of Business of both upper and lower houses i. e. Senate and National
We believe that
the government by effecting these amendments through the Finance Bill
has not only violated the constitution of Pakistan, rules and procedures
of business for the parliament, but it has also undermined supremacy
and authority of the Senate of Pakistan.
We assert that the
government is not entitled to make fundamental changes in these basic
laws. And to include such changes in the Finance Bill is patently illegal.
We also believe that even if proper amendment procedure were adhered
to, the government can not effect such changes as will alter the basic
structure of the industrial relations governing people’s working
It is pertinent
to point out that even when the Supreme Court allowed General Musharaf
the right to amend the Constitution, it barred him from making any fundamental
changes in the structure of the Constitution. The recent Supreme Court
judgment on privatization has reasserted the right of citizens to basic
We think that the
government is playing in the hands of international monetary institutions,
on which it depends for heavy loans, and exploiting its own people.
We reject these
changes and demand the government to withdraw these amendments. Besides,
all such labour laws including IRO 2002 which put restriction on the
basic rights of workers including freedom of association and right to
collective bargaining should also be withdrawn.
We also demand universal
implementation of an adequate and realistic minimum wage that reflects
rapid erosion in purchasing power because of faulty government policy.
work with adequate time for leisure and end to exploitation including
bonded labour and child labour is also the Constitutional responsibility
of the state.
We thank you all
for attending the press conference, and hope you will take up this issue
in your writings and stories. We welcome questions.
Syed Iqbal Haider,
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP)
Mutahida Labour Federation (MLF) Sindh
All Pakistan Textile Workers Union
All Pakistan Bhutta Mazdoor Union
All Pakistan Trade Union Federation
All Pakistan Textile Workers Union
All Road Transport Workers Union Pakistan
Pakistan Hotel Workers Federation
National Federation of Food, Beverages and Tobacco Workers