Islamabad, July 27, 2017 (PPI-OT):Participants to the two day National Labour Law Symposium agreed that Pakistan needs to improve its compliance with core labour standards and other UN standards under the GSP Plus framework as a means of supporting economic growth and development. The symposium was jointly organized by Continuing Legal Education Institute of Pakistan (CLEIP), International Labour Organization (ILO), Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP) of the US Department of Commerce, and the USAID from 19-20 July 2017.
The symposium brought together major stakeholders including the federal government, provincial labour departments, employers, workers, academia, independent experts, development partners and the civil society to discuss the labour legislation and related implementation issues in Pakistan and their impact on the investment and socio-economic development in Pakistan.
During the opening session, Ms Atifa Raffat, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development (MoPHRD), in her opening remarks, stated that despite the devolution, the constitution of Pakistan still rests the functions of welfare and protection of workers’ rights and the role of coordination with MoPHRD. She also informed the participants that her ministry was developing a National Labour Protection Framework (NLPF) with the technical support of the ILO.
The proposed NLPF encompasses fundamental principles and rights at work. Mr Majyd Aziz, President, Employers Federation of Pakistan, called for improved compliance and reporting of core labour standards, so that the GSP Plus status could be sustained to leverage the decrease in international remittances particularly from the Gulf region.
Mr Zahoor Awan, General Secretary, Pakistan Workers Federation emphasized that Pakistan needed to improve its compliance particularly with ILO’s conventions on freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively in order to improve worker welfare. Mr Amar Naseer, Founder and Treasurer of the CLEIP introduced the organizations research and advocacy work in the field of industrial relations which is aimed at promoting effective labour market governance in Pakistan.
Continuing from the remarks of the Government and social partners, Ms Ingrid Christensen, Country Director for ILO in Pakistan said the symposium was an opportunity to dilate on the importance of International Labour Standards (ILS) compliance under the theme of international trade, Pakistan’s competitiveness as well as the country’s GSP Plus status.
She emphasized on the importance of the topics under deliberation; their relevance in the context of the devolution and impact on Pakistan’s competitiveness in terms of trade and investment as well as the country’s efforts towards attaining the Sustainable Development Goals. Mr John K. Dickerson, Senior Attorney, CLDP, US Department of Commerce cited examples from his country and appreciated the involvement of social dialogue in the evolutionary process of bettering labour governance through which Pakistan is passing after the devolution in 2011.
The symposium was composed of six panels including 1)- Pakistan’s Implementation of ILO Core Conventions, Labour Requirements in its Constitution, and Institutional Mechanisms, 2)- Devolution versus Universality; Devolution of Labour Legislation and Administration to the Provinces; Issues and Perspectives, 3)- Workforce Management – Issues and Challenges from the Employer/Private Sector Perspective, 4)- Fostering a Diverse and Inclusive Work Force in the Formal and Informal Sector, 5)- Inspection, Monitoring, and Data Collection, 6)- Conflict and Dispute Resolution.
A number of issues and recommendations were highlighted during the panel discussions. Senator Taj Haider, Chairperson of the Senate’s Committee on Delegated Legislation, chaired the panel discussion on ‘Devolution versus Universality’. He stressed the need of improving the country’s trade balance in order to improve the employment intensity in export oriented sectors. He called for scaling up exportable production of goods while adhering to the provisions of international labour standards. He also solicited feedback of stakeholders on his party’s proposal of introducing mandatory registration of workers trade union at each establishment.
Dr Mujeeb Uddin Memon Sehrai, Vice Chancellor of the Sindh Agriculture University, during the panel session on ‘Work Force Management’ stressed the need to formalize the informal economy with a particular focus on Agriculture. He highlighted the potential changes in the labour market within the unfolding challenges of climate change and water scarcity stressing that this required prediction and mitigation.
Justice (retd) Yasmin Abbasey, Federal Ombudsman for Protection of Women at Workplace, during the panel discussion on Equality and Non-Discrimination, highlighted the low rate of women participation in labour force. She expressed the urgent need to reduce gender wage gap in order to promote ‘equal value for equal work’. She also advised stakeholders to connect the available evidence to establish and track the trends around non-discrimination in employment and conditions of work. She also pointed out the need to extend the law on sexual harassment at the workplace to the informal economy.
Barrister Raffay Altaf and Barrister Umer Gilani briefed the participants during panel discussion on Conflict and Dispute Resolution, about the comparative advantages of collective bargaining, conciliation, mediation and arbitration as alternate means of conflict/ dispute resolution.
The two barristers also spoke about various aspects of employment, statuary labour rights, industrial relations, issues confronting dispensation of justice in labour and industrial disputes. They also underscored the need for resolving issues of trans-provincial unionism as legitimated under the National Industrial Relations Act-2012. Participants of the panel also agreed on advancing social dialogue for multi-dimensional analysis of rights of contract Labourers.
As a way forward, participants of symposium agreed on continuing social dialogue as a means for finding lasting solutions to legislative and enforcement issues, so that devolution could facilitate real opportunity for sound industrial relations and improved labour market governance in Pakistan.
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