Labour conference demands abolition of privatization process

September 27, 2014 Off By Web Desk

KARACHI: The two-day Sindh Conference, which concluded here on Sunday, demanded an end to the privatization process, provision of universal social security protection to all workers, equal right of the collective bargaining to all the labour, ensuring tripartite mechanism for making all labour laws and implement of all the international labour conventions, which Pakistan has already ratified.

The Conference jointly organized by an Organising Committee initiated by Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research at Gulshan-e-Maymar here. Chief Minister of Balochistan Dr. Abdul Malik Baloch was the chief guest and senior journalist I. A. Rahman presided over the last session of the conference.

Speaking on the occasion, Balochistan Chief Minister announced to hold the first-ever provincial tripartite labour conference after 18th Amendment in Quetta Balochistan by the last week of October. He nominated his Advisor Dr. Kaiser Bengali as a focal person to organize the provincial tripartite labour conference. He said his party, National Party, would fulfil all the commitments in its 2013 Election Manifesto.

He said Balochistan government was the first, which has supported the land reforms in the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s case. He said he has asked his government departments to implement all the labour laws in the province.

Speaking on the occasion, I. A. Rahman of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) deplored that the situation of collective bargaining for labour is deplorable in Pakistan. The labour and peasants are excluded from many rights and their own trade unions movement has weakened over the years. He asked the industrial workers to help the agriculture and rural workers in making their unions.

Earlier, in the morning the senior economist and former Federal Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs Dr. Hafeez A. Pasha said it is a sad that majority of the workers are unorganized in Pakistan. The ILO report indicated that only one percent of Pakistani labour is organized in the trade unions.

In India about 33 percent workers are registered in Trade Unions and in Turkey 55 percent workers are with trade unions. “It is shameful for us,” he said adding that military governments in Pakistan had crushed the trade unions.

He said Pakistan is lagging behind in the implementation of labour laws as well as the ILO Conventions. He indicated that Pakistan may lose the status of GSP-Plus by the European Union at the two year review in 2016. Pakistan has to take serious measures to implementation the 27 international conventions including eight pertaining to Core Labour Rights.

He said the main cause of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s removal of Land Reforms Act 1977, the first step taken by the Military government of General Ziaul Haq was to abrogate that land reforms law.

He said inequality in land distribution has increased tremendously in Pakistan. Since mechanization of agriculture sector big landlords have become even stronger. He said over 13,000 Zamindar families are occupying 8 million acres of land of Pakistan.

He said due to bad governance in Employees Old age Benefits Institution (EOBI), this institution covers a small portion of the workers, despite the fact, it has assets of Rs. 200 billion and every year its reserves were increasing. There is a scope of increasing the pension of the retired workers to Rs. 6000 per month.

Talking about the land reforms, he said the state land was distributed in the past to patronage the influential people on political grounds, the land was sanctioned to Army Generals and bureaucrats to appease them. Under the Land Reforms Act 1977 around 350,000 acres of land can be distributed among the landless peasants, he added..

He said around 14 percent workers do not have living wages because they are unemployed or underemployed. “We have a lot of bonded labour. ILO estimates that there are about 2 million bonded workers in Pakistan. In my view the number of bonded workers is more than 5 times.”

Similarly, he said ILO figures indicate that 3 million children are doing job and they don’t go to schools.

He said it is a shocking fact that about 220 million people in Pakistan do not eat food for two times in Pakistan. Around 40 percent labour are doing job for 50 hours a week. Only 44 percent workers are getting minimum wages in Pakistan. The main problem in Pakistan is implementation of minimum wages law.

He pointed out that employment rate in Pakistan is not increasing in the formal sector, where as there was a tremendous increase in the informal sector. About 80% labour force in urban areas is working in informal sector.

Dr. Pasha said big landlords’ income is more than Rs 6500 billion, but their income tax payment is less than Rs. 1 billion. Despite all resistance, he said he had introduced the agriculture income tax and removed Octroi tax in 1997. All big offices in Pakistan like Prime Minister, President, Army Chief, Corps Commanders, Supreme Court Judges are exempted from paying taxes.

He said Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) is a good programme of democratic govt., which was not introduced by the Military governments. “BISP’s annual budget has been increased to Rs. 75 billion but I hope its amount be increased to Rs. 150 billion. Total 5.5 million families are benefitted from this programme.”

A large number of workers, members of trade unions and workers organisations attended the three-day conference.

Another senior economist Dr. Kaiser Bengali in his presentation on Privatization said that the governments have spent only 16 percent of the privatization proceeds on the loan repayment. He pointed out that the government had mainly sold the profit earning corporations and those were sold at throw away prices. Unfortunately, after the privatization, these industries were closed down. Gandhara industry, Zealpak cement factory were the main examples, which before the privatization were earning profits, but within six months of the privatization, they showed losses and were ultimately closed down. He said the lands and assets of the privatized corporations were more than the prices, they paid in the privatization deals. The share price of Muslim Commercial Bank (MCB) was less than the total price of furniture in the bank, he added.

He said the government had promised to spend the proceeds of the privatization on development schemes and pay off of foreign debts. Unfortunately, it did not happen. The percentage of budget on development expenditure was 16.6 in 1985-1992, but it was reduced to 1.9 percent in 1993-1999.

He said most of the companies have been sold to foreign investors, who instead of spending their profits in Pakistan are repatriating their profits from Pakistan. A private company’s aim is to increase profit, where as state’s aim should be to increase the national income and improvement of living standard of the people.

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