SHRC Consultation: Stakeholders Call For Effectively Implement Minimum Wages For Workers

KARACHI (Kashif Shamim Siddiqui): Sindh Human Rights Commission will soon launch a campaign to redress complaints about the non-implementation of minimum wages. In this regard, Mr Iqbal Detho, Chairman of the Sindh Human Rights Commission said the provincial government is evolving a mechanism to receive workers complaints.

Mr Detho was speaking at a Provincial Consultation on the Implementation of Minimum Wage Act jointly organised by Sindh Human Rights Commission and The Knowledge Forum at a local hotel here on Friday.

The consultation was largely attended by trade unions/ labour leaders, human rights defenders, representatives of concerned government departments and the media.

Iabal Detho said that the Commission daily receives complaints regarding the non-implementation of minimum wages. The SHRC would provide an online complaint form and the Labour Departments Sindh Wage Board would assist in this regard. The main objective was to reach a consensus and propose a systematic approach for the government to determine the minimum wage rate for both skilled and unskilled workers.

Talking about the role of SHRC to ensure the protection of the human rights of citizens, Mr Detho said the Commission is a legally established entity with the authority to take suo-moto actions in violation of human rights.

He pointed out that Pakistan is a signatory of important international conventions including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR) and the ILO’s many conventions. The Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138). Under this Pakistan has passed the minimum wage law and after the 18th amendment provinces have made their laws.

Under the Sindh Minimum Wage Act 2015 a Minimum Wage Board decides about the wages for both unskilled and skilled workers.

Mr Zulfiqar Nizamani, Chairman of the Sindh Minimum Wages Board said the Sindh government has got credit for fixing minimum wages through a tripartite mechanism. The wages are fixed after thorough deliberation in the Minimum Wages Board. The minimum wages are fixed keeping in view the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and the price hike.

Nizamani said for this year the Board has discussed the minimum wages for workers. The Sindh government will soon announce the minimum wages. Moreover, he said the government is emphasizing paying wages to workers via bank accounts.

Trade unions leader Ms Zehra Khan said employees and employers are two main stakeholders, but there is a trust deficit among them. Ms Khan pointed out that world-over countries are moving from minimum wages to living wages. Being a member of the Minimum Wage Board, M. Khan said besides unskilled workers, the board has also started fixing minimum wage for home-based workers. For the first time, minimum wages for glass bangle workers are fixed and published in the official Gazette.

Mr. Imtiaz Ali Shah, Managing Director of Sindh Solid Waste Management Board (SSWM), shared the measures taken by the Board to implement the minimum wage for sanitary workers and to ensure the necessary protections for these workers.

The SSWM has initiated a complaint monitoring system CRM to address issues related to minimum wage, provision of Personal Protective Equipment PPEs and first at the workplace.

During an open discussion, Zahir Farooque of the Urban Resource Centre said that the provincial government is spending a lot of funds for the disposal of solid waste but the private companies are paying meagre wages to the workers. Even some workers are receiving Rs 10,000 per month as wage.

Ms. Farhat Parveen, Executive Director of Now Communities shared her insights on the status of worker's wages in various employment sectors in Sindh.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Reejo Mal, Law Officer, Labour Department, Sindh, shared the governments efforts towards ensuring the payment of minimum wages to employees working in industrial and commercial establishments in Sindh.

Mr Ghazanfar Ali Qadri, Additional Secretary of Law, briefed the participants about the existing disparities in laws and emphasised the need for a comprehensive strategy to implement laws in corporate, industrial, and commercial sectors.

Mr Karamat Ali, Executive Director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) said the municipal workers especially sanitary workers are working in difficult conditions without any protective gear.

Mr. Javed Sibghatullah Mahar, Secretary Sindh Human Rights Department underlined the need for close cooperation among all concerned government departments.

Ms. Kulsoom Chandio, MPA and a member of SHRC, Krishan Sharma, Imtiaz Boota, Farhat Fatima, Khadim Mirani also spoke on the occasion.

Legal Aid Society Chief Executive Officer Haya Emaan Zahid also attended the program.