Thursday, February 9

Need stressed to implement core labour standards

KARACHI:Representatives of employers, employees, civil society and provincial government’s labour department on Thursday underlined the need to ensure implementation of the core labour standards and ethical trade practices in all sort of the businesses in Pakistan in order to improve efficiency and productivity.

They were speaking at a High Level Meeting for Business, Government, Trade Union And Civil Society on “Responsible Business Practices in Sindh” jointly organized by Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) and Ethical Trading Initiative at a local hotel.

Justice (Retd.) Majida Razvi, Chairperson, Sindh Human Rights Commission presided over the meeting, where as the other speakers included Karamat Ali, Executive Director of PILER; Ms. Cindy Berman (Head of Modern Slavery Strategy) – ETI; Gulfam Nabi Memon, Joint Director of Labour Department of Government of Sindh; Zulfiqar Shah, Joint Director of PILER; Dr. Tanweer Ahmed Qureshi, Additional Chief Secretary Government of Sindh; Mr. Khalid Junejo, Vice President of Khalid Junejo and Habibuddin Junaid, Convener Sindh Labour Solidarity Committee.

The meeting was the first of a series of such multi-stakeholders dialogues being organized by PILER and ETI to promote collaboration between government, the private sector and civil society. ETI’s tripartite approach brings companies, trade unions and NGOs together to shape the responsible business agenda and to ensure the most important risks for workers’ rights are identified and addressed effectively and collectively at each level of the supply chain.

In her presidential address Justice (Retd.) Majida Razvi said under the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP)-Plus facility by European Union, Pakistan has committed to ratify and implement 27 international conventions and covenants including eight Core Standards of the International Labour Organisation and seven Conventions and Covenants of the United Nations.

“We have still long way to go to implement all these 27 conventions for compliance of GSP-Plus, she said adding that the European Union (EU) has accepted Pakistan’s progress report and extended the GSP Plus facility for the next two years. Earlier, in her presentation, Ms. Cindy Berman (Head of Modern Slavery Strategy) – ETI said the governments have a responsibility to ensure that labour laws are enforced, there is regular labour inspections, the police too are doing their duties. There have been gaps in the law too in ensuring that companies know what constitutes criminal liability, when and where they will be breaking the law if they fail to prevent gross exploitation and abuse of workers.

She said her organisation’s mission is to improve the lives of people working in global supply chains. “Our focus is on working conditions in labour-intensive production where wages and skills are relatively low and workers are most vulnerable, for example, food and fresh produce, garment and footwear. ETI with its 125 members, is an alliance of companies, trade unions and NGOs who are collaborating to improve working conditions in global supply chains, developing good practice guidance and building capacity in the supply chains

Executive Director of PILER Karamat Ali traced the history of labour rights movement in the world. After 2nd World War, the said the United Nations (UN) was established that passed the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in which fundamental rights of the workers were also mentioned. He quoted the Oxfam’s 2018 Report on poverty and said there is a concentration of wealth in the world, poverty and inequality have increased.

About 82 percent of the wealth generated last year went to the richest one percent of the global population, while the 3.7 billion people who make up the poorest half of the world saw no increase in their wealth. He said the Neo-liberal economic system has spread all over the world especially in the South Asian countries and because of that widespread privatization was made, which rendered millions of workers jobless and caused increase in poverty and inequalities.

ILO’s Declaration on Principles on Workplace were introduced in which it was made mandatory that every country should implement at least eight Core Labour Standards. He said Pakistan has acquired GSP-Plus but the exports of the country have not increased with the expected proportion. Textile industries are the main beneficiaries of GSP-Plus, but they are facing problems and are demanding solutions of their problems. He said productivity and proficiency can only be increased with the workers’ involvement. Gulfam Nabi Memon, Joint Director of Labour Department of Government of Sindh agreed the suggestion that all labor inspectors should be trained. In this regard he said the provincial labour department has initiated a training programme in collaboration with ILO.

He said after the 18th Amendment in the Constitution, Sindh government has made record legislations on labour subject and total 13 labour laws have been enacted. “We have not only amended the necessary labour laws but for the first time organized Sindh Tripartite Labour Conference in 2017.” We have formed Tripartite Labor Standing Committee and by early this year the first every provincial Labour Policy has been announced.

A separate comprehensive Occupational Health and Safety Act is enacted in Sindh. “We are also working on the Sindh Road Transport Act and Sindh Home Based Workers Act and these laws would also be the first,” he added. On the occasion three groups of participants were formed: Group-1 Government institutions, Group-2 Businesses and brands, Group-3 Civil society and Trade Unions that gave their recommendations.