Islamabad - The federal capital has been striving for its first-ever labour court as the main forum for regulation as well as adjudication of disputes.

According to the officials at ICT administration, absence of independent industrial law for the ICT in line with the other provinces and non-availability of powers to regulate the registration of trade unions has badly hampered the industrial relations situation in the ICT.

According to the officials at the city district government, the provincial labour courts have no jurisdiction in the capital city nor can be conferred with such jurisdiction. The labour court is not only relevant for industrial relations but also is a forum for dispute resolution in other laws e.g. workman compensation, social security, payment of wages, standing orders, factory act, shops and establishment etc. they said although the National Industrial Relations Commission has been empowered to resolve individuals’ grievances but it cannot exercise the powers of labour court. Under the circumstances, the authorities have been facing difficulties in implementation of the labour laws.

Director Labour and Industries ICT, Mrs Rabia Aurangzaib told The Nation that in view of the development of trade unionism, progress of industrial relations and redressal of grievances of down trodden workers and promotion of healthy relationship in tripartite constituents, “Registration of Trade Unions and Industrial Relations Bill, 2018” has been put for approval to be placed before the parliament. She hoped that the parliament would soon pass the legislation in this regard. Mrs Rabia further said that industrial relations in the workplace are governed by the provisions stipulated in the industrial ordinances and Acts as enacted by the government from time to time. She said trade unions in Pakistan generally function on a plant-wise basis with their membership contingent on the size of the industry or trade which they belong to. Once established, the trade unions and employers’ association have the right to draw up their constitutions and rules, elect their representatives in full freedom, organize their administration and activities and formulate their programmes, she added. Trade unions have to be registered under the relevant section of the industrial relations law, she added.

The unions are registered with the registrar of trade unions of the relevant province or with the NIRC if the industry or establishment is nationwide after fulfilling number of requirements. Through registration, the trade union obtains certain benefits because the registration confers on it a legal existence as an entity separate from its members.

The requisite legal support is provided by the industrial relations laws. The country at the federal level has witnessed two Industrial Relations Ordinances of 1969 and 2002 and the Industrial Relations Act, 2008. The IRA-08, however, was an interim arrangement and its validity was only up to April 2010 when it stood repealed.

The IRA-08 and its predecessors, the IRO-02 and IRO-69 set out the rules procedures for the internal working of the trade unions and employers’ organizations on democratic lines so that they represented their members in a proper manner. The IRO-69 defined the primary objective of formation of trade unions as improving relations between employers and workers and negotiating better terms of employment for their members. The laws governing industrial relations make it mandatory for every union or federation of trade unions to register with the registrar of the provincial labour departments and the nationwide with the NIRC. After the 18th amendment in the constitution, now the labour becomes the provincial subject as such responsibility of administering the labour laws fell upon the provinces.

Rabia Aurangzaib said that it is very difficult for small unions to get themselves registered with NIRC. From 2010, negligible unions have registered themselves with the relevant authority in the ICT. It is very difficult for small unions of the ICT to approach the highest forum like NIRC for certification of CBA adding that it far easier for them to approach labour department where they are familiar with day to day work.

The ICT’s administration is in the process of codifying four new laws to regulate the terms and conditions of employment of workers in the federal capital. The initiative has been taken on part of the Labour and Industries department of the ICT with the help of ILO, ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan. It was taken in the aftermath of the infamous Tayyaba torture case to help regulate workers’ employment and service besides prohibiting employment of children in the capital. The proposed set of laws would replace the existing 72 laws relating to the subject of labour, condition of employment and industries in the ICT limits. According to the officials, the existing laws do not cover the subject properly, therefore, ICT administration proposed the set of laws to ensure protection of rights of labourers and domestic workers. The proposed laws include “Workers Employment and Service Conditions Act, 2017”, “Occupational Safety and Health Act”, “Trade Union Registration and Industrial Relations Act”, and “Workers Social Security, Welfare and Compensation Act.” These four laws would ensure protection of a child and domestic worker, the administration claimed.