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Labour management relations in 1990.

Pakistan in a matter of 43 years of its existence has already experimented four labour policies and is now heading for a fifth one. In fact with the change in every government, the country's labour policy also underwent a change. Just as the governments were unstable so were the labour policies with the result that even the basic norms and values in industrial relations could not institutionalize and the institutions envisaged to symbolise labour management relations could not gain roots. The governments coming into power one after another used industrial relations scene to suit their political motives without caring for the long term needs of industrialisation and socio economic growth. This situation breeded mistrust and lack of confidence among the parties in industrial life and brought them to confronting points on the one hand and on the other widened the increasing gap between the aspirations and achievements of both the employers and the workers in the respective areas of industrial growth and economic and social welfare.

Today the employers and the industrialists feel that their right to manage has been infringed, that they are not free to take decision in areas of their operation, their authority to exercise disciplinary controls is eroded, the unfettered right to form association by workers divides the enterprise into conflicting groups difficult to manage, their efforts to improve efficiency and productivity of the workers are thwarted by the ill motivated designs of professional outsiders and they are not assured of security of their personal life and property within and outside their organisations. They blame that a labour policy tilted towards labour and the outdated labour laws incapable to meet the demands of change were responsible for such a dismal situation resulting in closure or almost no expansion of existing industrial units and shy industrial climate inspite of all the drum beatings about incentives for industrial investment.

The workers on the other hand have a feeling that the employers did not adopt a progressive and enlightened attitude to the issue of labour welfare, they were reluctant to adjust their profit oriented approach with a welfare oriented approach they were not prepared to guarantee security of employment except through legal restraints, even the workers genuine legal rights and interests were not conceded unless demanded and that the employers desired unrestricted profit and managerial control without having the same shared by the workers to the proportion it was due to them. They blame that the government's failure to implement the labour laws and the employers' inability to respond to the changing concept of socio economic welfare were responsible for infallible vacuum in labour-management relations at the enterprises level and that conflicting and vested interests both from among the employers and the labour leadership were exploiting the vacuum to suit their ends.

In such a scenario if one was to foresee the labour-management relationship in the 1990's one important conclusion would be not to ignore the past and current realities and to approach the future with a formidable resolve to bridge the gap between aspirations and achievements of the investors and the working class. In my opinion all the three parties in industrial relations must base their approach for the 90's on the following main premises:-

i) Both the employers and the workers must have a complete understanding about the common objectives of the enterprise and through practical demonstration of goodwill must develop among them an atmosphere of mutual trust and confidence of such a high degree that major differences are avoided much before they turn into disputes and trivial differences get automatically ignored.

ii) Bilateralism is accepted as the major rule for determining and shaping industrial relations culture at the enterprise level and the interference of the government as well as the outside labour leaders in the routine matters of the enterprise is reduced to nil.

iii) Mushroom growth of trade unions at the enterprise level be curbed with an iron hand and the concept of one trade union at the plant level with regular democratic elections within the organisation be gradually institutionalised.

iv) Collective bargaining be promoted in its letter and spirit and the partners in industry must be left free to practice the same without interference by the government.

v) Profit oriented and welfare oriented approach must be happily inte locked in the minds of both the workers and the employers so that vested interests do not get an opportunity to play up with the vacuum created by clash in approaches.

vi) The unions of employers and workers are organised at the industry level so that they can jointly face the economic challenges with complete understanding of objectives at the macro level. Let wages and productivity become national issues to be sorted out by representative bodies with a national consensus so that there is uniformity of impact and implementation.

vii) The employers and workers through their representatives at the enterprise as well as the national level must develop a 'Code of Ethics' according to the religious, cultural and social dictums and accepted social norms. The industrial partners must pledge to conform to the agreed Code of Ethics and even to subjugate the labour laws to the broader principles agreed in the Code so that the atmosphere of conflict in industrial relations is replaced by an atmosphere of complete coordination with objectives. The Government, the employers and the workers and their representative organisations must rise to evolve the 'Code of Ethics' without any further loss of time.

An industrial relation approach in 1990's if developed on the above based premises, Pakistan may be voluntarily pushed together to build the country as it should be at the turn of the 21st century.

Trade union activities are directly linked with the industrial growth. Without amending Industrial policy industrial growth cannot be enhanced. Economy has been made dependent on foreign loans and the country is busy in debt servicing. Liberal import policy is further aggravating the situation. Our exports have lost credibility abroad because of being substandard. Existing political instability of the country is due to unstable economic system. The situation on labour front as such is unpleasant. Contract labour system strengthened further during the present government. Violations of labour laws are similar to martial law government. Under ILO convention women workers are not allowed to work before sunrise and after sun set and farmers have the right of union formation. Contrarily ILO conventions are violated in both cases.

Despite the government assurances union activities have not been restored in many organisations like TV & Radio, except the fact that some sacked employees of martial law period were reinstated and union activities were allowed in PIA. The only remedy to come out of the situation is to utilize available human resources instead of banking on foreign technology. Secondly, without involving further investment production could be increased by adopting three shifts in such industries which have one shift. This would also provide job opportunities. Import of such items must be banned which can be produced easily in our industries. Thirdly Agriculturists should be brought under tax-net. Unless there are visible changes on labour front, Labour-Management relations in 1990 are not likely to improve.

1990 does not appear to be merciful for workers. It may surpass 1989 in labour unrest. Since its inception the elected government has been involved in nonissues and facing opposition within and outside assemblies. Undemocratic forces are leaving no stone unturned to reverse the democratic system. Elected government seems to have lost initiative and direction. Industrial workers in the private sector are encountering various problems. Contract labour system occupies top position on the agenda. Workers are subjected to the worst exploitation under the system. They are debarred from lawful trade union activities. Government servants are anxious for better wages. Bank and financial institution employees are eager to see the collective bargaining right restored. This right was snatched 15 years back. Overall situation of the country is gloomy. Unemployment, price-hike and corruption inherited to the present government are adding new dimension to the agony.

Elected government should mend its fences. Provide conducive working conditions to the workers to lessen tension on labour front at least. In an exploitation free society no adventurist, no matter how strong he is, could are to take over the reins of the government even in the late hours of night.

All Labour matters are directly linked with the economic and industrial system and activities. Therefore, drastic reform is needed in the economic and industrial activities and policies to provide relief, gainful employment and social welfare to the workers. The existing law does not allow collective bargaining in various organisations. The worst hit are the peasantry. They are exploited by Zamindars who do not pay taxes. The minimum wages should not be less than the price of 1 Tola of Gold which is nearest to Budget of a workers. Despite too much division among trade unions, they demonstrated unity in Tripartite Forum regarding workers' problems. The unbriddled increase in Prices, disturbed Law and Order situation and unemployment with shrinking industrial and commercial activities warrant Islamic Economic order. Control of prices, drastic revision in the government fiscal policy, complete revision of labour laws in accordance with the dictates of Islam and ratified ILO Conventions and strict enforcement thereof are necessary. Islamd does not allow any discrimination. Every individual must have the benefit s of Islamic law.
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Author:Haque, Ansarul
Publication:Economic Review
Date:Jan 1, 1990
Previous Article:Economic forecast, 1990-91.
Next Article:Economic events 1989.

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