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Labour rights activists call for implementation of minimum wages

Speakers at a moot on Wednesday stressed the need for a strong labour movement for the implementation of the labour laws at the time when deepening recession and the Covid-19 outbreak had created huge problems for workers.

The moot, titled ‘Dialogue program – Minimum wages and its implementation’, was hosted by the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) at a local hotel and attended by representatives of workers, trade unions and the provincial labour department.

The session was moderated by Home-Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) general secretary Zehra Khan.

Minimum Wages Board Chairman and Additional Secretary Labour Dr Zahid Hussain said that after the 18th constitutional amendment, an improvement could be observed in the labour laws. He added that many new labour-related laws were enacted in Sindh and the province was far ahead of other provinces regarding the labour-related legislation.

He said there different labour laws had different definitions of labour-related terms which sometimes caused problems. The main issue of workers was that their appointment was not made in writing, he added.

He stressed the need for issuing written appointment letters to the workers. He explained that for some labour laws, proper rules were not there and this caused problems in their implementation. He added that his department was working to make proper rules in this regard.

Dr. Zahid Hussain said that there was the issue of capacity in the Minimum Wages Board as a majority of employees were near the age of retirement. He added that he had got his mobile phone number published for receiving complaints of workers regarding the minimum wages.

NTUF General Secretary Nasir Mansoor said they had convened the dialogue to talk on the issue of minimum wages in a tri-partite manner. He said the minimum wages were limited to unskilled workers only but sadly many skilled workers were also getting them.

He lamented that a majority of industrial units and factories were not giving the minimum wages to their workers. Workers were also not being paid proper overtime and other benefits, he said, adding that the economic crisis was deepening and they would launch a movement of workers if immediate steps were not taken to resolve the labour issues.

Karamat Ali, the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) director, said that as per the constitution of Pakistan, it was the right of citizens to live a life with dignity. He added that the minimum wages were not enough.

Habibuddin Junaidi of the Peoples Labour Movement said that without a strong labour movement, the workers could not get their due rights, including the right of minimum wages. He said record legislation had taken place in Sindh after the 18th amendment.

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