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Labour policy must be the link between needs and aspirations of national economy.

FASIHUL KARIM SIDDIQUI who is General Manager, Personnel & Administration in Hlnopak Motors Ltd. obtained his Master in Arts and Law Degree from Dacca University & MBA from karachi University. Mr. Siddiqui is widely known among professional circles for his expertise in Labour Laws & Industrial relations. He has contributed a number of papers and articles in International and National seminars and has effectively represented the employers on national and international forums. Mr. Siddiqui who is an elected member of the Managing Committee of the Employers Federation of Pakistan & Chairman of its Labour Advisory Committee has recently held meetings of employers at Gujranwala, Lahore, Faisalabad and Karachi to muster employers views on vital labour issues. Following are the excerpts from an interview of Mr. Siddiqui by Economic Review:

ECONOMIC REVIEW: What in your opinion should be the important features of the forthcoming Labour Policy?

Fasihul Karim Siddiqui: We need a Labour policy of socio-economic aspiration of a developing country like Pakistan which is still at a take off stage in the race of industrial and economic growth. The new Labour Policy in order to be realistic should ensure the following: a) Its objective should be to generate employment in the country and to remove all the bottlenecks in the way of labour market flexibility. b) Unlike the Labour Policy of the Ayub Regime which was tilted towards the employers and the Labour Policy of the Bhutto regime which was heavily tilted towards the workers, the new Labour Policy must contain concrete measures to find a just and equitable adjustment between the rights and obligations of both the workers and the employers. c) It should encourage and promote unfettered bilateralism in industrial relations at the plant level and should discourage interference of outsiders including professional labour leaders and the government in day to day labour-management interaction at the enterprise level. d) It should aim at cutting down the voluminious labour laws to the bare minimum and modifying them in the form of a simple document taking care of the changing and updated requirements of manufacturing and welfare needs of a developing society. e) It should evolve by consensus a "Code of Conduct" for the workers and employers in the country. "The Code of Conduct" should spell out the behaviour and working norms and attitude expected both for the workers and the employers within and outside the workplace truly reflecting the teachings of Islam and positive experience of civilised industrial democracy. Such a Code of Conduct is sure to bring attitudinal change in the thinking of the employers and workers alike and its observance with sincerity can bring the desired improvement in our industrial relations system.

Our new Labour Policy in short, must be a workable link between the needs and aspirations of our national economy and social welfare.

ER. What is your view on the general complaint by the employers about the outsiders holding office in the Trade Union?

FKS. Employers complaint about the outsiders holding offices of the union exploiting the workers to their own advantage and creating labour dispute should not be taken lightly. The Government should collect statistics of sick and closed establishments during the past few years to find out how many of them have been closed because of the exploitative maneuvering of the professional outside labour leaders. If it was proved that the designed of the outside labour leaders were among the reasons responsible for the closure/sickness of those establishments, then the outsiders so responsible should be severely dealt with after judicial probe. The industrial relations enactment in Malaysia, Japan and Phillipine, does not contain any provision in their law allowing for outsiders as office bearer of the enterprise level Union. Till such time the provision relating to outsiders holding union offices is done away with the legislation must restriction that an outsider can not hold office in more than one enterprise at one time.

ER. What is your opinion on the issue of Contract Labour?

FKS. The contract labour is a bonafide media of providing employment opportunities to unemployed workforce besides being to the employers a universal source of getting efficient and productive workforce at competitive cost. Existing labour laws already provide sufficient coverage to the contract labour and it is a question of effectively implementing these laws which can be achieved by the proposed legislation requiring registration and licensing of Contractors. The proposed legislation should however ensure that regulation of contract labour is not jeopardised by giving too much power in the hands of registering and licensing authorities which will only breed bureaucratic corruption. The objective of the proposed legislation should be to identify the contractors and to enable the establishment and the contractors to perform the contracted job within the norms of the universal law of contract and the applicable labour laws.

ER. The provincial minimum Wage Board are known to have recommended fixation of minimum wage at Rs. 1,000/-. Your comment?

FKS. Such a fixation may not materially change the position in big industrial establishments of Karachi and Lahore, but its impact on smaller units and growing industrial areas of the four provinces need to be carefully examined. The minimum wages for unskilled workers which were presently Rs. 616/-in the Province of Sindh, Rs. 716/-for Punjab and Rs. 566/-for NWFP, if fixed at Rs. 1,000/- would amount to 62% increase in Sindh, 40% in Punjab and 77% in NWFP. Such a tremendous increase in cost of labour will have fatal effect on the existing industries in the industrial areas of the Provinces and will also have a limiting effect on investment climate

It will be advisable to go for a gradual increase in the level of minimum wages keeping in view the objective realties of the various provinces. It will be much more advisable to refer the matter to a National Minimum Wages Council which should delineate over all aspects of the matter before coming up with a uniform minimum wage.

ER. What are your comments on employers demand to restore the right of simple termination?

FKS. Employers do not demand the restoration of the right of simple termination. Their insistence is on their right to manage and to replace unwilling workers by willing workers. The restrictive legislation in 1973 on the subject has already shown a far reaching consequence and the employers investment in the expansion of their units and in labour intensive industries has been on a sharp decline. Instead of making this a sensitive issue, the Government and all the parties concerned should give a pragmatic thought for agreeing on a formula for a just and equitable solution of the problem of replacement of unwilling workers (who are always very few in number with a high nuisance value) by willing workers who are unemployed in multitude awaiting their positive role in national building. Even the Prime Minister of Pakistan Mohtarama Benazir Bhutto in her address at the Sindh Labour Convention held at Karachi on 5th July 1986 promised that a High Powered National Labour Commission comprising for elected members of the national and Provincial Assemblies and the representatives of the trade union and employers will be constituted to advise on this controversy and on the modalities of replacing unwilling workers with the willing workers. It was high time that this Commission be formed and its suggestions be implemented to resolve this long standing issue.
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Author:Haque, Ansarul
Publication:Economic Review
Article Type:interview
Date:May 1, 1990
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