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> Workers, Parliamentarians call for broader consultation on new INDUSTRAL RELATIONS Law; Federal Labour Minister announces Tripartite conference on Feb 16.
   
 
Briefing Session
January 27, 2009
Serena Hotel, Islamabad


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Islamabad, January 27:Representatives of the workers and parliamentarians agreed on holding broad-based consultations on the Industrial Relations Act (IRA) and modify the IRA 2008 to make it acceptable to Workers, Employers and the Government. The consensus emerged at the Briefing Session for Parliamentarians on Industrial Relations Act 2008 organised by PILDAT on Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at a local hotel. A large number of parliamentarians from various political parties and workers representatives were present on the occasion. Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah, Federal Minister for Labour, Manpower and Overseas Pakistanis chaired the session. Syed Khurshid Shad, while responding to the comments and observations of parliamentarians and workers, announced the convening of a tripartite conference on February 16, 2009 to review IRA 2008 and evolve consensus on the new legislation. He asked PILDAT to join the consultations and play an active trole in promoting a consensus. He appreciated the timely discussion on IRA and said that it has been extremely fruitful. He said that IRA 2008 was a law made by humans and humans can make mistakes. He agreed that in his position he has worked hard making the necessary amendments in IRA 2002 to make it more labour oriented in terms of their welfare. Considering the discussion carried out today makes him understand that there are issues still lingering in the IRA 2008. This is an act is for a shorter duration before a permanent law is put in place by 2010. He announced that his ministry would hold broad-based consultations with all stake-holders to develop concensus on the new Industrial Relations law. He also added that workers and employers have to work side by side thinking and believing that they are the two wheels of a cart and that their country’s progress lies in their hands. He added that the government would make sure that the two sectors work in harmony by bringing out the right policies for them. PILDAT introduced a Legislative Brief on IRA 2008 both in English and urdu on the occasion. The Brief examines the strengths and weaknesses of IRA 2008, compares it with its preceding legislations IRO 1969 and IRO 2002 and presents recommendations for its improvement.

 
 

It was pointed out by Chaudhry Manzoor Ahmed, former PPP MNA and Chairman of Pakistan Labour Bureau during the Briefing that the first law on Industrial Relations in Pakistan was the Trade Union Act, 1926 that was inherited from the pre-independence period. Later Industrial Relations Ordinance (IRO), 1969 was promulgated which was replaced by IRO 2002. The present government has repealed IRO 2002 and enacted Industrial Relations Act (IRA), 2008. President Asif Zardari gave assent to IRA 2008 on December 15, 2008 after it was passed both by the Senate and National Assembly. Trade Unions had serious reservations about IRO 2002. A number of Workers Organizations have criticised IRA 2008 too claiming that no meaningful consultation was undertaken with stakeholders especially the workers. Despite the passage of IRA 2008, the debate on the subject continues. In order to enhance the understanding of the legislators about IRA 2008 and expose them to various view points, PILDAT is holding a Briefing Session that is expected to help the legislators in forming an opinion about the need to amend IRA 2008. Chaudhry Manzoor Ahmed suggested that there has never been anything as concise and self explanatory as IRA 1926 one should refer and use the document for reference when formulating a new IRA. To him there should been appropriate consultative session in order to seek the stake holders opinion before actually making it an Act. He also suggested that labour rights are not just related to labour only. This is now the main aspect which will shape up our trade and in turn our economy. He hopes that government takes this matter seriously and makes policies which favour workers and their welfare.

 
 

Mr. Zahoor Awan, Deputy General Secretary -Pakistan Workers Federation (PWF), while presenting the Workers’ perspective on IRA 2008, identified that IRA 2008 hardly represents a departure from the now defunctional IRO 2002, he identified the weaknesses of this act. The major weakness to him is the addition in the section 24 (2) of IRA 2008, giving rights to the employer and Government to make applications to registrar of trade union to hold referendum for the determination of CBA (Collective Bargaining Agents), if they do not like the existing CBA. To him this addition is in violation of the norms of justice as well as creating bitterness. To him this will be detrimental to the workers eventually. Mr. Ahsan Ullah Khan, Chairman -Workers and Employers Bilateral Council of Pakistan, suggested that any law made is for the welfare of the human kind but its implementation is what matters the most. Mr. Raja Faizul Hassan Faiz, Director Law/ Central Labour Advisor -Ministry of Labour and Manpower explored and informed the audience on the effectiveness of IRA 2008 as compared to the preceding legislations. He said that the new Act has improved some of the negative sections pertaining to denial of the right of NIRC to grant interim relief, deletion of the Labours’ court right for compensation in lieu of the reinstatement of the workers in service and restoration of certain powers of the Works council and the joint management board.