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Labour management relations in Pakistan - 1990s.

At the time of creation of Pakistan, there was virtually no industrial base and almost all the industrial units were located the Indian side of the subcontinent. Pakistan had to start from the scratch in 1947 and gradually move towards industrialisation. The only and significant industrialisation which the country had seen was mostly in 1960s, when the textile and other sectors created a sort of mini revolution.

Due to the absence of industrialisation, there was a vacuum on the understanding of labour-management relations which resulted in adoption of hard line between the employer employee relationship in the 60s when the industries started to spring up. Like post industrial revolution period of England, exploitation at both ends allegedly took place. Labour laws although in force in Pakistan, which were mostly from the United Indian subcontinent and were a follow up of the original English legislation, yet there was no strong machinery to implement the said laws.

The absence of managerial skills to deal effectively with newly developed industrial workforce - a class of society, which was earlier predominantly employed in agricultural sector - coupled with low level of education, dearth of leadership, general political climate and the overall lacking of discipline in the people being a new nation played a full role in deteriorating the industrial relations in the country.

The fall of the regime in which the worth mentioning industrialisation took place, as can be said of the proud Ayub era, reportedly entire labour-management relations to a collapse and the events that followed virtually shook the entire industrial sector. The setback thus suffered has not been overcome inspite of more than 20 years having been passed. This also was followed by various changes in the labour enactments and most of the labour laws were rationalised.

Beginning of 1970s, saw nationalisation of major industries besides banking, insurance and other sectors which in background of events that took place during end 1960s brought a halt to further industrialisation in the country and extremely poor labour-management relations. The radical elements which had dominated the scene in the 60s continued to prevail in the 70s and this period saw setting up of new industrial units only in limited manner in the private sector. However, the scope of public sector enterprise had enlarged substantially and significant investment took place in Chemical and Engineering sectors etc. The labour-management relations nevertheless continued to remain stagnant but awakening developed in the mind of both the employer and the trade unions to develop harmonious relationship which would go a long way in looking after interest of both the parties. Additional amendments were introduced in labour and factory laws providing for more worker welfare oriented schemes and incentives which though created so many problems to the employers in their implementation due to ambiguities and lacunaes went a long way in redressing the workers' grievances. This followed by developments in political arena towards the latter part of the 1970s provided an opportunity to cool down in their respective positions to both sides and things began to stabilise.

The Government machinery, in the meantime, also took pain to establish itself and settle down with the sole objectives of creating a good environment for smooth working of the industrial sector. The latter part of 1970s and the eighties witnessed a reasonably balanced approach as both sides had borne the fruits of bitterness. The elements of extremism had been rejected by the saner ones and the administrative machinery in the labour department did provide an effective forum for bringing an end to labour-management conflicts. The only unfortunate part of this period was, however, that inspite of a strong Government and several conferences held in succession involving employer and employees representatives, no workable formula was evolved to further strengthen and provide a solid base for an end to conflicts in the overall interest of the country.

One can, therefore, look forward to a moderate and peaceful industrial relations in the 1990s as the necessary trial already took place in the 1980s. Both the employer and employee must realise that they can achieve everything by putting heads together. The concept of |tri-partism' must be flourished as we have already seen the failure of |bi-partitism'. While the employers need to respect and follow the country's labour and industrial laws including the healthy growth of trade unionism and collective bargaining, the workers must discipline themselves, understand their rights and duties and increase productivity. In the event of local conflicts, every endeavour be made to restrict it to the establishment itself instead of spreading it to others and attached industries. The disputes can be resolved in either adopting the legal framework provided in the labour laws or by involvement of respective organisations representing Trade Unions' Federations and Employers. Trade Unions' Federations should plan educating workers in increasing productivity, discipline, avoiding committing misconduct, fruits of good conduct and behaviour and above all to develop affection to the environment and the place which earns him and his family bread. The Government should rationalise labour and factory laws bringing them to present day needs. It also needs to commit itself not to interfere in smooth working of the industries. The various collections from employers under different heads be merged into a single unit and collection procedure simplified. The expenditure on workers' welfare schemes should be made with more active participation of the employers and workers' representative bodies. Local and regional affiliation will affect the environment but not likely to deem serious proportions until outside interference influences in which industries must prevent impartially.

Generally, there is ample ground to base one's opinion on the labour-management relations in the 1990s as optimism will prevail and the environment is expected to be congenial. The objectives for the 90s in the areas of labour-management relations as coming out of the above deliberations must focus on the following:- i) Promotion of bi-partism in labour-management

by both the parties in

industrial life. ii) Least interferences of the

Government in the areas, which fall within the

purview of collective bargaining. iii) Collective bargaining must be

recognised as the only way to resolve

differences in areas of industrial dispute. iv) Rationalisation of labour laws and its

updating and removal of ambiguities

therein through tri-partism

consultations. v) Minimisation of tri-partite institutions

dealing with labour-management

relations at the enterprise level. vi) Development of a Code of Conduct,

specifying the rights and duties of

both the employers and the workers in

the light of our Islamic Cultural

Teaching and deep commitment by both the

parties of strictly adhering thereto. vii) Promotion of independent labour

judiciary comprising of tri-partite

structure. viii) Employment oriented labour policy

with the two strong objectives of

providing employment opportunities on

the one hand, and ensuring social

welfare for the workers and the

industrial sector. ix) Enlargement of industrial and labour

laws and welfare, benefits to the

workforce in agricultural sector. x) Consolidation of welfare laws,

benefits and agencies to ensure their

rationalization and effectiveness.

Employers are of the view that if aboveobjectives are kept in view, the era of 90s may strike the dawn of a new peaceful and healthy trend in labour-management relationship in our country. Mr. Matin Khan (48) is a Law Graduate. He is associated with Wellcome Pakistan Limited, a multinational company, as Director, Personnel & Administration. He is member Executive Committee, SITE and Chairman of its Labour Sub-Committee. He is also a member of the Managing Committee of Employers Federation of Pakistan and Chairman of their Public Relation Committee. He also holds the portfolio of Joint Secretary, Pakistan Institute of Personnel Administration.
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Author:Khan, Matin
Publication:Economic Review
Date:May 1, 1990
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