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Denationalisation policy is extremely conducive for investment.

Denationalisation Policy is Extremely Conducive for Investment

IFTIKHAR AHMED MALIK, General Manager, Personnel in Pakistan Tobacco Co. Ltd. graduated from Government College, Lahore in 1958. Mr. Iftikhar started his professional career from Pakistan Shell Oil Company. Later Mr. Iftikhar joined PTC where he heads the Personnel department. He has represented PTC in several forums and presented papers in seminars and workshop. He is registered with the National Foundation For Education and Research, UK as a qualified |tester'. He is the Chairman, Labour Committee of the Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industries and an elected member of the Employers Federation of Pakistan. Following are the excerpts from an interview of Mr. Iftikhar:

Economic Review: How will you comment on Labour-Management relations in Pakistan. What measures do you suggest to improve them further? Iftikhar Ahmad Malik: Labour-Management relations can best be described as adversary in nature as opposed to being co-operative and productive. I place the blame on the shoulders of both the management and workers but more on the management as they are in a position to influence situations and take an enlightened view. The Government's role has been that of a bystander largely because of frequent policy changes. The attitudes of the Government, employer and employees have a historical background and unfortunately there is very little realisation of the damage done and the time it will take to rectify the situation.

The current Government policy is committed towards building a new Pakistan and it has a vital role to play to change labour-management relations. The new Government is exploring various avenues but speaking as an employer I sincerely believe that the route lies through freeing employers from the restrictive legislation and consequent interference and leave management and employees to develop their relationship.

ER: What are the general problems of the employers in our country and what is its remedy? IAM: Employers are severely handicapped to comply with the enormous legal requirements. The requirements do not meet modern day requirements - pre-partition laws are applicable when the country should be operating for the 1990's and the next century. Employers are hesitant to expand facilities for their employees as they fear that in addition to what they do the Government will enact legislation introducing some benefit scheme thereby increasing costs and undermining the relationship and commitment of the employer and employee. Employers are capable of doing a lot if their hands are free not only for the employees but also for the community in which they operate. Suggestions in this respect have been made to the Government. Within employers, unfortunately, there is very little recognition of the Personnel function responsible for human resources. A trained set-up can play an important part and be able to analyse problems and solve them amicably. The cost of human resources in Rupee terms is a major portion of an organisation's expense and these resources deserve care.

ER: How do you view the denationalisation policy of the present government. Is it conducive to investment or not? IAM: The denationalisation policy is extremely conducive for investment. It will encourage investors but the policy alone will not work unless those regarding human resources are changed in a way which will allow employers to manage. Employers would like to modernise the workforce from time to time and this requires them to replace those employees who cannot meet the requirements. At the same time an employer must have a policy which enables the development of an individual person - he has a moral and social responsibility as well. An enlightened employer will certainly look at different ways and means to retain a workforce which contributes to an establishment's well being.

ER: There is a resentment among workers against Contract Labour system. What steps do you suggest for its elimination? IAM: The system as is generally understood has been misinterpreted. All over the world such systems exist; organisations are responsible for different activities and how best can they be done. The contract system is one system which is used for mutual benefit. It cannot be done away with and will only be replaced by others of a similar nature.

The contract system is in fact a subcontract arrangement with another organisation or person who specializes in that type of work. Work may be done on the site or off the site. In Pakistan more jobs are completed on site because of lack of facilities outside and thus a small enterpreneur is assisted in his business. A sub-contract uses the specialist skill which an employer does not possess. It is in our national interest to keep and refine a system which is maligned unnecessarily. To give a simple example of a sub-contracting look at the electrical fan industry - components are made through contracts and these are assembled elsewhere. Industrialised countries of the West and East rely on the specialist work and both the contractee and contractor have benefited. If the system is banned we will be damaging that segment of society which has a significant portion of the total employed working force. There are alternatives available to the Government to ensure that the exploitation allegedly committed is eliminated.

ER: Are you optimistic about the incoming Labour Policy. Is it likely to contain employers and employees aspirations. If not what measures do you suggest for a balanced Labour Policy? IAM: I am very confident that the Government will frame a policy which is progressive and balanced. But it has to ensure that all sectors of |workers' are benefited - benefiting or covering selective sections and promulgating special laws for them creates anomalies. Obviously the government cannot cover all sectors immediately, so it has to consider something for self-employed persons, farm labour, Government employees in a phased programme. The Government appears to be committed to change for the better and employers have been and are being consulted. Amongst the proposals for a balanced Labour Policy I think it is important for the government to regularly meet employers and employees and act speedily.

Whilst the Government has a responsibility to develop good labour-management relations I feel it is important for members of the Assemblies and local bodies to take an active interest in labour matters. Representatives from the Federation must be able to present their views and the Government should therefore develop a machinery for this purpose. At this stage I think it is possible for the Government to take some steps immediately and phase out other matters over larger periods. Employers are in a position to recommend measures in the short and long term - everything cannot be tackled immediately as there are too many constraints. For example the Government wishes to raise the minimum wage to Rs. 3000/-gradually. The Government must spell out the period over which it proposes to increase the wages and in this period be able to understand the difficulties of employers (and the economy as a whole) and if necessary change. I think it is not possible for the Government to take a fixed position in labour matters and it must be flexible and responsive.

I have referred to the outdated laws and would like to emphasize that the new Labour Policy must not discriminate and exclude sections of people. They also need the benefits of the labour laws to improve their lot. Presently the entire burden of enhancing workers welfare is met by employers. Vast amounts have been collected by the Government and the benefits are negligible. The Government has to look into this area seriously. Workers too need a sense of participation in these programmes - hence they must contribute to programmes. ER: What measures do you propose to solve the unemployment problem in Pakistan in view of the returning Pakistanis from Middle East? IAM: The Pakistanis who have returned from the Middle East have certain skills, mostly in the construction industry. They can best be utilised in the industry and I think it will welcome them. The terms will of course be different. Other than direct employment opportunities, Pakistanis can be assisted with loans and advances for businesses, especially small scale business.

ER: How would you rate the behaviour of present government towards the Employers? IAM: So far it has shown some understanding as is evident from meetings with Government officials. Employers are sincere and genuinely interested to help develop industry and if the Government responds favourably to the increases recommended I would say that it means what it says in terms of its concern for the progress of the country.

ER: What changes do you expect on Labour-Management relations in 1991? IAM: Almost half the year has passed and expectations have increased. Both employers and employees are anxiously awaiting the Government's policy. This has created some instability. At the same time the Government's determination to change is evident; employers particularly have a major responsibility to be able to understand and implement changes for the betterment of their establishment and their workforce.
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Title Annotation:Special Issue: Industrial Relations in Pakistan '91; interview with Iftikhar Ahmed Malik
Publication:Economic Review
Article Type:interview
Date:May 1, 1991
Previous Article:Difference of opinion is not confrontation.
Next Article:Awareness of the worker cannot be hoodwinked.

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