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A comparative analysis of Western & Islamic model of industrial relations.

Pakistan is one of those few countries of the post industrial revolution era which in a short span of four and a half decades has experimented four labour policies one after another introduced by successive governments from the period between 1954 and 1972. Each of these labour policies claimed to provide an industrial relations structure which was most responsive to the country's social and economic needs according to the socio economic and political planners of the government in power. None of them could receives universal acceptance in the Pakistani context because they were mostly based on the western model and could not be associated in the Islamic character of our society.

In order to understood the situation better, let us first have a comparative analysis of the Western and Islamic model of industrial relations and then examine as to which of the two models possess in it the potential to face the socio economic challenges of the century ahead of us. The western model of industrial relations is based on the following premises:-

i) The relationship between employers and workers was one of exploitation of many at the hands of a few.

ii) The rights of workers need to be defined, guaranteed and protected by legislative measures so that the chances of their exploitation may be minimised.

iii) The "wages determination" was the main cause of dispute between labour and capital.

iv) That wages of workers must be determined justly and equitably and if necessary, state or government must interfere to provide just and equitable wages for work done.

v) The workers and employers have conflicting interests and therefore to safeguard the rights and interests of the workers they should have the right to collectively organise themselves by forming trade unions and should have the right to collective bargaining with their employers. Similar rights be given to employers. To help workers and employers bargain effectively, the right to strike be given to the workers and the right of lockout to the employers. The right of strike and lockout was therefore, the tool in the hands of the workers and employers respectively, which could bring a balance in their relationship.

vi) The bipartite and tripartite institutions at the enterprise level could be promoted to achieve "harmony and understanding" among the workers and the employers.

vii) The rights of workers welfare include progressive increase in wages, reduction in working hours, softening the conditions of work, restrictions on labour from children and women, taking care of workers children after their death, improvement in the working and living environment, social security schemes, compensation for injuries etc.

viii) The government may intervene as conciliator between the workers and employers and determine their respective rights and obligations.

The rights given to workers under the western model of Industrial Relations are quite comprehensive but the fact remains that they have not been able to give satisfactory results precisely because of the following reasons:-

a) The struggle between aspirations and achievement circles round material satisfaction which gives rise to capitalistic mentality in which concessions given to workers are not based on a sincere desire to bring improvement in the quality of life but is instead the result of group pressure or selfish expediencies.

b) Unfettered right of private ownership and free market economy has helped confinement of national wealth in a few hands which inturn accentuates unrestricted profiteering. Those owning more resources of employment attain more control on means of employment and those who are deprived of resources become more and more deprived. This generates unemployment on a mass scale.

c) Since concession of benefits given to workers in the western model of industrial relations is based on expediencies and lacks voluntarism on the part of the employers, there is a lack of confidence and trust among industrial partners and they are always on the lookout for getting back at each other.

d) The right to form an association and to bargain collectively has on the one hand widely benefited the workers by securing to the organised few a better future. But on the other hand has deterred the process of employment generation by creating suspicion in the minds of the employers who prefer to go for capital intensive industries by overlooking the possibility of investment in labour intensive industries. Organised trade unionism which is an important aspect of Western model of industrial relations has also been responsible for tension choked industrial atmosphere at the enterprise level resulting in confrontation rather than cohesion and harmony among industrial partners. The situation has also provided opportunities to adventurists both among the employers and labour leadership who have exploited these institutions for meeting their selfish ends.

e) The Western model of industrial relations undermines the role of land, capital and management in the process of production and has placed these factors of production subservient to 'labour' as the dominant factor. It is in this background that even the International Labour Standards are primarily concerned with securing more and more rights and privileges for the working class and there is hardly any effort to achieve a balance between the rights and obligations of both labour and management as complimentary factors in the process of production.

Having pointed out some of the predominant reasons why the Western model of industrial relations has not been able to suit the genius of Islamic culture and society, let us now have a look at the premises on which the structure of the Islamic model of industrial relations is built. Some of these premises are as under:-

i) Unlike the Western model of industrial relations which presupposes the existence of exploitation behind the relationship between employers and workers, the Islamic model of industrial relations stems out of "mental attitude" and "ideological frame of mind" which shuns all distinction between man and man and prescribes that only that person is better before God who has faith in Him and who does good deeds irrespective of what status or possession that person may enjoy in his personal life. What is the measure of good deeds before God can be discovered in the lifestyle of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and his teachings.

According to the Holy Prophet, only he is the best among the Muslims who is the best in 'behaviour and conduct'. Mutual love and respect does not only presuppose good and pious deed but also determines the dignity of labour in Islam. Islam does not only permit a man to undertake maximum physical or mental labour for earnings his livelihood but also encourages him for putting in maximum labour. In fact Islam confers on an ordinary person doing physical labour the same respect and status which it confers on a person with the highest of status in the State. This status has not just been conferred by nature or law but the real representatives of Islam have proved this fact by their deeds and character. The Prophets of Islam have themselves set examples of earning their livelihood by undertaking manual labour and even by rearing sheeps. the Holy Prophet (PBUH) used to kiss the hands which put in labour.

In Islam the very basis of relationship between the workers and the employers is 'the observance of mutual rights and obligations' and "mutual respect". The Holy Prophet (PBUH) mentioning about the working class said "Respect them as you respect your children". Islam does not entertain any distinction on the basis of profession nor does it distinguish between an employer and a worker. There is only one standard of distinction in Islam and that is "fear of God and the sense of responsibility".

ii) Islam recognises the right of private ownership but does not give the right to any person or government to become the owner of untilled soil/land considering that all means of livelihood are the joint property of all human beings. It was in pursuance of this natural right and freedom of occupation that during the time of Holy Prophet (PBUH) and the First Caliph, not only foreign traders but even traders of those countries with which Muslims were at war were exempt from any tax so that they can move freely and earn their livelihood. This basic premise roots out all possibilities of confining means of livelihood in the hands of a few persons and the very basis of exploitation of one man at the hands of another holds no validity in the Islamic model of industrial relations.

iii) Unlike the western model of industrial relations where workers rights need to be defined and guaranteed through worldly laws, in the Islamic pattern of industrial relation the workers rights are not differentiated from basic human rights since all men are treated equal and some are not considered more equal than the others. It was the results of the basic teachings of Islam that the Arabs who maltreated their slaves before the advent of Islam embraced them as their brothers and made them eat and wear what they ate and wore themselves. According to one Hadith, employers and labourers are your brothers. If God has placed one under you, he has also made it obligatory for you to respect his social and psychological needs and has enjoined on you to follow the principles of 'Musawat' in fulfilling his economic needs

iv) Unlike the western model wage, determination is not the cause of dispute between labour and capital in the Islamic model of Industrial relations. Islam places equal emphasis on all factors of production and maintains a balance among all the factors of production by giving each one of them their due share in return. Islam generates 'a sense of morality' strong enough to discourage the breeding of opportunities and selfish mentality which normally is the cause of dispute between labour and capital resulting in strikes and national losses. If at all a situation reaches a dangerous point, it is the responsibility of an Islamic Government to intervene and find a just solution rather than being favourable to one or the other party.

v) The Islamic system of wage determination is moderate, perfect, just and equitable. In Islam, wage fixation is a matter of contract between worker and employer. The worker offer his labour and the employer pays him his wages. No one does any favour to each other and both of them are free to enter into a contract with each other without any fear or favour of intervention from any quarter.

In the Islamic model of industrial relations as such, both the employers and workers are of equal status. Neither can the employer commit excess in taking work now in fixing wages. Similarly the worker can neither commit dishonesty in performance of his job nor can he annoy his employers without reasons. It was for this reason that whenever the Holy Prophet took any work from any person on wages, instead of giving that person a feeling of gratification, he gave the person the equal status of a contractee. It also signifies that Islam ordains the observance of the employment contract and makes it obligatory on the parties to fulfil their part of the contract religiously.

vi) According to this principle an Islamic Government may lay down such laws which can ensure that none of the parties commit any excess on each other in determining/fixing wages. The principle however clearly stipulates that the Government should not take upon itself the task of fixing wages. It has a responsibility only to facilitate the parties in industrial activity by enabling them to enter into a fair employment contract and to honour their commitments to each other. In the light of the teachings of Holy Quran and Sunnah all the scholars unanimously accept the status of worker and employer and are also unanimous in defining "labour" as a contract which is delivered for gain in consideration for wages.

vii) The Islamic model of industrial relations also clarifies that employment contract concerns itself only, with the 'job performed' and 'the gain' achieved out of the 'job performed' and 'the gain' achieved out of the job performed and does not in any way concern the person of the workers. This means that an employer can bound the worker to perform his part of the contract but they can not treat or consider worker as purchaseable commodity. The right to fix wages through individual contract is an admitted right which Islam has already given to the working class fourteen hundred years ago which right the trade unions of the current era are struggling hard to achieve without substantial results.

viii) Another very important premise of Islamic model of industrial relations is the fact that from Islamic point of view the individual is more important that the group of society or nation. The individual is not from the group, rather group is from the individual. Before God no group, nation or society will be held responsible in their collective capacity. Instead every individual will be accountable for his own individual deeds. Such as categorical statement is likely to give an impression that trade union or forming of association for collective gain is forbidden in Islam. In my humble opinion, however, such a conclusion may not be entirely correct. What it may, however, mean is that the Islamic model of industrial relations makes it the prime responsibility of trade union (as the body or group of workers) to ensure that it helps individual members to develop their full potential of delivering good deeds' and nurturing individual capabilities so that they may not just be utilised to the best advantage of the society and the individual but also that the individual himself feels accountable for his duties and obligations. Islam does not encourage any organizational scheme through which the individual is put under group pressure in the name of collective welfare and is left to become a tool in few hands by loosing their individualism and personal character.

ix) One of the most important premise of the Islamic model of industrial relations is the fact that the entire structure of industrial relations is developed on the basis of 'mutual trust and confidence' between workers and employers. Even the role of the government in the Islamic system lies in strengthening the 'level of mutual trust' at the enterprise and national level rather than in taking sides and promoting confrontation. Unlike the Western model which tries to seek 'harmony and understanding' among industrial partners through artificial respiration provided by a heavy framework of bipartite and tripartite institutions, the Islamic model of industrial relations aims at capitalizing on the 'moral values' so strongly that the interests of both the workers and the employers culminate in one of earning the pleasure of God and His Prophet (PBUH) by being kind, equitable and just to each other. In the process of achieving this objective, the parties develop between them such a high level of confidence, that even prepares them for sacrificing each other's interests for attaining the common good.

x) The last premise which I would like to emphasise as an important feature of the Islamic model of industrial relations is the process of "Mushawarat" or consultations as the most acceptable method of settling differences and disputes as compared to 'Conciliation' 'arbitration' or adjudication in the Western model. While in conciliation, arbitration and adjudication the parties have to ultimately surrender themselves to the will of an individual or group of individual, the process of "Mushawarat" helps in reaching consensus by being accommodative for each other in the best spirit of mutual respect and understanding of each other's views.

xi) The institution of "Mushawarat" in an islamic society is likely to prove more effective not only for avoidance and settlement of differences and disputes that also in developing the participation level of workers in the management of the affairs of the enterprises, in proposing and implementing welfare measures for the mutual good of the organisation and for setting corporate objectives without their being a fear of encroaching the levels of authority.

Among many other reasons, one reason in my opinion for our failure in economic objectives lies in the fact that we have been trying to experiment imported models of industrial relations in our country and have not so far given serious thought as to whether we could also look towards the islamic model of industrial relations which was closest to the genius of our society and culture and in fact the very basis of our foundation and existence.

It is also a coincidence that for the first time in the political history in our country, the process of Islamisation and industrialisation has become the subject of simultaneous attention by the Government in power. These two objectives do not just seem to be slogans. The Government appears to be genuinely interested in making a head-way. Let this opportunity not be lost and let the employers and the workers come out boldly to pursue the islamic base in our industrial relations which can provide a strong framework for the future labour policy of our country.

Fasihul Karim Siddiqui (45), General Manager, Personnel & Administration in Hinopak Motors Ltd. is widely known among professional circles for his expertise in Labour Laws and Industrial Relations. Mr. Siddiqui presented this paper at the International Tripartite Seminar organised by NLF.
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Author:Siddiqui, Fasihul Karim
Publication:Economic Review
Date:May 1, 1993
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