Labour Seminar: Raza Rabbani calls for workers unity

MANILA: Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani has called upon the workers and trade union leadership to come forward at a platform and start a movement for taking back their due rights given under Constitution, otherwise the elite and state elements will continue their perpetual exploitation against them.

He was speaking at a labour seminar to celebrate the Surpeme Court’s decision in PSO case in December 2017 by declaring the third-party contract employment system as illegal and unconstitutional, jointly orgaised by Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER), Democratic Workers Federation of State Bank of Pakistan, Karachi Press Club and other trade unions at KPC on Sunday.

“We welcome the Supreme Court’s 8th Devember 2017 decision regarding third party contract employment system, but we also demand the government to implement it in a letter and spirit,” he said adding that the government is unable to implement any such decision.

The state often don’t listen to the cries of people and until a big hue and cry is not raised, they remain unmoved, he said. Until state will not change its mindset, the laws will remain kept in law books.

Exploitation of elite and the state actors intensified during the Martial Law regime of General Ziaul Haq when trade unions, students unions and coffee culture was destroy,” said Raza Rabbani.

Recalling the labour and student’s agitations against the first Martial Law ruler Ayou Khan in late 1960s, which resulted in latter’s resignation, Mian Raza Rabbani said General Zia’s military regime kept that experience in the mind and systematically destroyed people’s movements.

Besides curtailing the power of students and labour unions, the military regime also systematically ended the coffee culture, from where people’s resistance movements were emerging. Habib Jalib, Fiaz Ahmed Faiz and Joan Ailya used to sit in those coffee clubs and mobilize public.

“Tell me who is substitute of Jalib or Joan Ailiya today,” he asked?

Senate Chairman recalled on a single call of a labour union, the entire industry right from Karachi to Peshawar used to be closed down, but now a single industrial unit is unable to go on strike. Earlier, the trade unions were united.

Senator Rabbani said international imperialism also played its role in discouragement of trade unions in Pakistan. On the insistence of local elites and international corporate Pakistan has introduced contractual employment system, which has destroyed trade unions.

He expressed his concern on use of Anti Terrorism Act against trade unions and students. In Punjab a fundamentalist students organisation first unleashed terror on Baloch, Pathan and Sindh students in Punjab University, but instead of taking action, the Punjab government had arrested the victims and cases under ATA were registered against them.

Former President of Supreme Court Bar Association Rasheed A. Razvi said that the Supreme Court’s verdict on 8th December 2017 in PSO case is welcome, but before that decision, there were other verdicts of apex court and high courts, but none were implemented by the respective government.

He recalled that contractual employment was included in the definition of Payment of Wages Act 1936. It was also included in the definition of workers under IRA 1969, IRO 2002 and IRA 2008. After the 18th Amendment all provincial Industrial Relations laws continued the same practices, thus all laws have provided legal protection to contractual employment system.

Judiciary has also accepted the contract system. In various decisions the Supreme Court has legalized it. He added. He said contract employment is violation of Articles 3, 4, 9, 17, 25, 37, 38 of the Constitution.

Ms. Anis Haroon, Member, National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) said that no country can be progressive if its workers are not progressive. Government has fixed Rs. 15,000 minimum wages, which are often not paid, but that amount is quite meager.

She assured the workers that NCHR would support their demands and raise their problems with the government.

Speaking on the occasion, Executive Director of PILER Karamat Ali said 73 percent workers are employed under informal arrangement thus they are devoid of any employment rights. No organization is willing to give these rights to their employees, he added.

Liaqat Sahi of Democratic Workers Federation of State Bank of Pakistan said that third party contract system was introduced by General Pervaiz Musharraf regime, which is very exploitative in nature. He said even the democratic governments did not make efforts to annul that darkest law.

He underlined the need for amending the workers’ exploitative laws. All those laws which are against Constitution should be scrapped, he added.

He claimed that 15 million workers are working either on daily wages and employed under third party contract system.

Nasir Mansoor of National Trade Union Federation said that in private sector 100 percent employment is provided on contract system. “If we want to support a trade union, some secrete agencies threaten us. that you are anti-state elements because we demand compliance of labour laws.” KPC President Ahmed Malik demanded to solve the journalists problems.