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Labour policy should reflect workers aspirations.

MR. ABDUL AZIZ MEMON (40) is the Secretary of Peoples Labour Bureau Pakistan, President of Pakistan Bank Employees Federation and Senior Vice Chairman of Pakistan Labour Organization. Soon after graduation he joined United Bank Ltd. in 1969. He also holds the portfolio of Secretary General of United Bank Employees Federation of Pakistan and President of United Bank Labour Union (CBA). He is a dynamic Trade Unionist who started his career as Member to the Managing Committee of the United Bank Labour Union in 1972. He is a crusader of human rights, democracy and also an outstanding social worker. His services to democracy is unprecedented. He is closely associated with PPP and a trusted comrade of Prime Minister Mohtarama Benazir Bhutto. He devoted himself for the uplift of the downtrodden of our society. Economic Review interviewed him on various vital issues confronting workers. Following are the excerpts:

Economic Review:" What are the objectives of Peoples Labour Bureau?

Aziz Memon. The prime objective of Peoples Labour Bureau (PLB) is to end exploitation and bring about a positive socio-economic change in the present set-up. The existing system provides protection to the exploiting class. All resources of this society are at the disposal of the privileged class. Workers have no protection whatsoever. Professional trade unionist further damaged the cause of the working community. Peoples Labour Bureau, since its inception tried to unite workers and resolved industrial disputes through NIRC. We are struggling hard to provide conducive working conditions to workers and to safeguard their economic rights. Peoples Labour Bureau enjoys workers support throughout the country. It is the representative forum of working community irrespective of colour and race. PLB is striving hard for an exploitation free society.

Peoples Labour Bureau maintains a close liaison with all Unions and totally remains committed to the cause of the workers at large. Instead of remaining divided our singular aim is the identification of the workers, which we believe has been achieved. With strong conviction PLB devoted itself for better terms of employment and fringe benefits. The protection of dependents in case of death of the wage earner has now been ensured through the efforts of PLB.

ER. Tripartite Labour Conference is very much in news nowadays. You are also a member of Standing Committee. What the labour policy is likely to contain?

AM. The forthcoming Labour Policy should contain the aspirations of the working community. It is necessary for industrial peace and betterment of the downtrodden. Productivity is co-related with prosperity of workers. None can imagine industrial prosperity keeping the working community economically suppressed. The new labour policy is bound to play a decisive role to end exploitation of workers in the private sector. As far as the Peoples Labour Bureau is concerned it had submitted its recommendations to the Standing Committee of the Tripartite Labour Conference. Positive results could be achieved if 50 per cent of its recommendations are implemented.

ER. How will you comment on Labour-Management relations in Pakistan in the new democratic era?

AM. Before commenting on the management labour relations, we will have to assess the prevalent political conditions. In November 1988 General Elections, the Pakistan Peoples Party uprooted Zia's remnants. But the oppressors did not reconcile to the democratic government of PPP. And vested interest are creating obstacles in smooth sailing of democracy. The industrialists are no exception. They in league with the anti-democratic forces are sabotaging the labour cause. The situation is not likely to improve in foreseeable future. As such the possibility of positive labour-management relations appears to be remote. However, I still uphold the aspirations of a better tomorrow. Despite the odds the democratic government has been successful in maintaining industrial peace and harmony. But this could not continue for long. The genuine problems of working class should be taken up on priority. Immediate positive measures should be implementation to ease tension among workers.

ER. Why the collective bargaining right is not given to Bank employees when it is being demanded unanimously by Bank Unions.

AM. The right of Collective Bargaining, as envisaged in PPP Manifesto, has not been given to the banking industry. On the other hand it was restored in State Life Insurance Corporation. We have raised the issue in the proposed labour policy. And hope that collective bargaining right would be restored. Restoration of collective bargaining is the long outstanding demand of banks and financial institution workers. I am of the firm belief that without giving the bargaining rights the industrial peace in banking industry cannot further be maintained.

ER. Do you expect Wage Board Award for Bank employees in near future. If so what recommendations would you like to propose for the benefit of the workers?

AM. We have boycotted the Wage Board proceedings simply on the reason that our long outstanding demand of collective bargaining has not been restored. Secondly, we objective the procedure set to select the members of the Board. We are firm that the Board must be tripartite viz. Wage Board for Newspaper Employees. There is a positive progress in this regard and it is expected that New (Tripartite) Board will complete its task without further delay. However, the Wage Board is not the proper answer and forum to workers problems. It is the bargaining right of workers which could redress their grievances.

ER. Do you face any ethnic problem in your organisation. If so what measures do you suggest to control it?

AM. The Banks and financial institutions being the part of the society have no immunity to the existing ethnic polarisation particularly in Karachi and Hyderabad. The seeds of hatred were sown during Zia's regime to perpetuate the autocratic rule. It was the policy of divide and rule. The undemocratic forces are still following the footprints of their predecessor and want to restore Zia legacy in the country. It is the obligation of democratic forces to come forward and join hands to eliminate evil. However, it is transitory phase. As soon as sentiments cool down, rational approach would prevail over insanity. It is our firm belief that with the growth of positive trade unionism, the ethnic and linguistic problem would die down. Trade unionism stands for universal unity of workers irrespective of colour or race.

ER. Do you have any suggestion to control the increasing bank robberies?

AM. The bank dacoities have over shadowed the working conditions in banks which have assumed new dimensions during Zia's regime and eclipsed the banking industry. Many employees lost their lives. The administration miserably failed in protecting lives and property. On countless occasions we have raised voice against the tragic incidents in banking industry. It is high time to look into the problem in a scientific manner.

ER. What changes do you expect on labour front during the remaining period of 1990.

AM. We are very optimistic. The new Labour Policy would definitely confirm this. The workers all over Pakistan are eagerly waiting for the new Labour Policy. Furthermore the forthcoming Labour Policy would confirm the claims of PPP of standing besides oppressed class. If the Labour Policy fails to deliver goods then the option would be left open to workers.
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Author:Haque, Ansarul
Publication:Economic Review
Article Type:interview
Date:May 1, 1990
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