‘Labour Rights as Citizen Rights
The two-day conference on ‘Labour Rights as Citizen Rights: Realizing Constitutional Reforms’ concluded here in Islamabad The purpose of the conference was to share labor’s concerns and initiate debate on issues related to labour in the backdrop of the 18th Amendment which has set the grounds for provincial autonomy and devolution.
The second and concluding day of the Conference moved with the commitment to make use of constitutional reforms and a post devolution order to deliver on rights of workers of the sectors (agriculture, fisheries, home-based, and others) that are excluded from the ambit of labour legislation. This also includes the unemployed and socially marginalized.
The conference highlighted key issues related to labour including structures of labour policy and legislation; regulations and mechanisms to ensure compliance of labour laws with constitutional rights and international conventions; the future of social security and welfare bodies; addressing exclusion of the majority of labour from labour laws and poor implementation of a number of labour laws such as labour inspection, IRA, tripartite mechanism, minimum wages, etc. It was decided that recommendations would be drawn on the basis of observations and suggestions made on these issues.
Participants supported devolution and called for efforts to ensure implementation of the constitutional reforms. The participants noted that there is need to work on broadening the ambit of legislation and implementation for workers excluded from the system by way of institutional deficits or restricted labour laws. It was also emphasized that the state’s disinclination to deliver on social services has not only comprised people’s constitutional rights; it has also resulted in extremely restricted scope for people’s health, education, well being, and future. Representatives of workers involved in informal sector highlighted the insecure and compromised state of working conditions in fisheries, agriculture, home-based, domestic and power looms sectors. They said that state’s neglect of workers in informal sector has left over 70% of workers out of the ambit of labour laws, while exploitation and abuse of rights remain rampant.
While drawing recommendations, participants agreed that the framework and basis of all laws and institutions should be according to ILO conventions and principles, and UN Covenant on Economic and Social Rights. The conference was organized by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, Sungi Development Foundation, and Muttahida Labour Federation.