An article by Sharafat Ali published by the Asian Human Rights Commission

The 2-day National Conference Labour Rights as Citizen Rights: Realising Constitutional Reforms was organised by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, Sungi Development Foundation and Muttahida Labour Federation in Islamabad. The conference shared stakeholders’ concerns on the current status of labour rights, identified gaps in labour policy, legislation and institutional arrangements that have deprived majority of workers of their basic rights for the last 64 years, and worked out recommendations to rectify the historical wrong in the post- 18th Amendment context.

The conference was attended by more than eighty (80) concerned stakeholders comprising state representatives, trade unionists, informal sector workers’ organizations’ leaders, employers’ spokesperson, the ILO-Pakistan representative and human rights activists. Prominent state officials included Provincial Ministers of Labour (Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab), Central Labour Advisor Federal Ministry of Labour, EOBI Chairman and Member Planning Commission. Trade union leaders from Pakistan Workers Federation, All Pakistan Trade Union Federation, National Trade Union Federation, Muttaheda Labour Federation, People’s Labour Federation and Balochistan Labour Federation, and from the informal sector, Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, Labour Qaumi Movement, Anjuman-e-Mazarain Punjab, Glass Bangle workers’ Union and home-based workers from Hazara participated in the deliberations.

During the first day’s deliberations the key issues impacting labour were highlighted and it was debated how these can be reframed for the benefit of workers after the 18th Amendment has opened up space for autonomy and empowerment of the provinces. The issues included the need for national labour policy frame work, inclusion of informal sector workers in mainstream policies and labour legislation, and institutional arrangements for universal social security and welfare. The second day, devoted to group work, brought out broader and specific recommendations to address these issues.

Background of the Conference

The passage of the 18th Amendment which has modified more than 100 sections of the 280-article Constitution in summer 2010 is being considered as rewriting of the social contract between the citizens and the state. There is general consensus that the Amendment will have a profound impact on the way the country is governed and its economy is managed. The 18th Amendment not only grants greater legislative and administrative powers to the provinces, it also affords economic authority to the federating units. The amendment empowers the provinces to levy sales tax on services, exercise joint control with the federal government over 18 subjects including some key subjects like sea ports, all regulatory authorities, national planning and national economic coordination, supervision and management of public debt, census and natural resources.

With the Concurrent List abolished, provinces will now have complete control over the social sector including education, health, population, labour, social welfare, as well as environment, tourism, print media, culture and archaeology. The Amendment will have far reaching implications for labour legislation and implementation of regulations guiding industrial relations in the country. Also, the 18th amendment has expanded the scope of fundamental human rights through affirming three new rights namely: the Right to fair trial and due process, Right to information and Right to education.

In the backdrop of persistent denial of fundamental and civic rights to the majority of workers for the last 64 years, through repressive labour legislation and through unjust, inequitable distribution of resources, controlled by the elite through concentration of power, devolution holds the potential of correcting the historic wrongs and injustice done to the majority of workers. But how can devolution deliver benefits to the working class? What should be the process and how the provinces can make things work given enhanced space for autonomy and empowerment?

These were the questions that needed to be discussed and deliberated by the key stakeholders. The national conference was thus organised to provide a platform for consultation on pressing issues of labour–both formal from informal sectors–that must be tackled to take the devolution process forward.

Please find the detail report here

The views shared in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the AHRC, and the AHRC takes no responsibility for them.

About the Author:
Sharafat Ali is a program officer at Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER). He can be contacted at

Document ID :AHRC-ETC-025-2011
Countries : Pakistan
Date : 08-06-2011