Speakers at the seminar demanded the government ensure the payment of a minimum wage to all workers, especially civil service cleaners, security guards and fuel station workers.
The Pakistan Institute of Labor Education & Research (Piler) held a seminar entitled ‘Situations for the Application of the Minimum Wage Act’ at the Karachi Press Club on Saturday. Leaders from various trade unions and civil society groups attended the program.
Human rights activist Naeem Sadiq said the Sindh Employee Social Security Agency (Sessi), the Institute for Old Age Benefits (EOBI) and the provincial labor department must implement the March 10 decision of the Sindh High Court (SHC) to pay minimum wages to cleaning staff.
Sadiq, one of the petitioners in the case, said he and a number of other residents were concerned about the low wages paid to cleaning workers, security guards and other workers, most of whom are employed by private contractors.
“Despite the fact that a minimum wage law exists in Pakistan, there is no application of that law. The minimum wage is already much lower than the living wage, and even more than 60 percent of workers in Pakistan don’t get it, “he said.
“There are no social security services or any benefits for such workers, and more than 95 percent of workers do not receive social security facilities from state institutions.”
Welcoming the SHC ruling in favor of cleaning staff, he said now state implementing agencies need to play their part in ensuring payment of at least the minimum wage for all workers.
Through senior lawyer Faisal Siddiqi, a group of citizens have filed a constitutional petition at SHC, and after two years of legal proceedings the court issued a historic ruling ordering civilian bodies to pay minimum wages to all workers, even if they are hired through contractors.
The court has also asked the relevant authorities to pay workers’ salaries through banking channels, confirm their registration with Sessi and EOBI, and issue them with letters of appointment.
“We have conducted a survey on living conditions at the Clifton Cantonment Council [CBC] cleaning workers are facing many problems due to skyrocketing prices, ”said Sadiq.
“These workers have been employed by contractors, and most of them are paid less than half of the minimum wage set by the provincial government.”
She said she and her like-minded friends began writing to the relevant civil society organizations to ask them about the janitor’s salary, but the letters went unanswered.
“We then filed an application under the right to information law asking about their janitor’s appointment letter, but the response was poor. Within a day, the CBC janitor’s salary was raised from Rs12,500 to Rs17,500. “
He said that the wages of employees in other sectors are also very low, especially those who work at gas stations and as security guards. He expressed regret that Karachi civil society did not play a role in voicing concern for the rights of these vulnerable groups of people.
He said that EOBI and Sessi are state institutions, and they must ensure the application of court rulings on minimum wages based on law.
Executive Director Piler Karamat Ali said that according to a recent World Bank report, Pakistani nationals earn less than two dollars (around Rs307) a day, which is much lower than the minimum wage. He underlined the need to implement the SHC orders.
Nasir Mansoor of the National Trade Union Federation demanded that unemployment benefits be included in social security services. He said that during the Covid-19 closure, the private sector refused to pay its workers despite the fact that a special law had been passed by the Sindh government for that purpose.
He also said that a large number of workers in the Karachi industry were fired during last year’s shutdown, but the government failed to enforce the law on its own.