Salient features of Labour Laws in Pakistan-IV
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Strikes and Lock-outs
Proceedings of strikes and lock-outs
If dispute settlement proceedings before the Conciliator fail and no settlement is reached, and if the parties have not agreed to refer their dispute to an arbitrator, the workers retain the right under section 31 of the Industrial Relations Ordinance 2002, to go on strike providing due notice to their employer within seven days, and the employer has the right declare a lock-out after the delay of notice of conciliation has expired. The party raising a dispute retains the option, at any time, either before or after the commencement of a strike or lockout, to make an application to the Labour Court for adjudication of the dispute.
Where a strike or lock-out lasts for more than fifteen days, if it relates to a dispute which the Commission is competent to adjudicate and determine, the Federal and/or the Provincial Government may, by order in writing, prohibit the strike or lock-out at any time before the expiry of thirty days, provided that the continuance of such a strike or lock-out causes serious hardship to the community or is prejudicial to the national interest. In such case the Federal Government or the Provincial Government shall forthwith refer the dispute to the Commission or the Labour Court . After hearing both parties, the Commission, or the Labour Court shall make such award as it deems fit, as expeditiously as possible but not exceeding thirty days from the date on which the dispute was referred to it.
Under section 32 of the IRO 2002, if a strike or lockout occurs within the public utility services sector the Federal Government and the Provincial Government may, by order in writing, also prohibit its occurrence at any time before or after the commencement of the strike or lockout.
No party to an industrial dispute may go on strike or declare a lockout during the course of conciliation or arbitration proceedings, or while proceedings are pending before the Labour Court .
In addition, the National Industrial Relations Commission (the Commission), adjudicates and determines industrial disputes to which an industry-wise trade union or federation of such trade unions is a party , as well as disputes which are of national importance.
The Commission also deals with cases of unfair labour practices.
Illegal strikes and lock-outs
A strike or lockout is declared illegal if it is commenced without giving notice of conciliation to the other party of the dispute, or if it is commenced or continued in a manner other than that provided by the IRO 2002 or in contravention with this text.
In case of an illegal strike or lockout, an Officer from the Labour Department may make a report to the Labour Court , and require the employer or CBA or the registered trade union concerned, to appear before the Court. The Court may, within 10 days, order the strike or lockout to be stopped.
In case of contravention of the order of the Court by the employer, and if the Court is satisfied that the pursuance of the lock-out is causing serious hardship to the community or is prejudicial to the national interest, it may order the attachment of the factory and the appointment of an official receiver, who will exercise the powers of management and may do all such acts as are necessary for conducting business.
In case of contravention of the order of the Court by the workers, the Labour Court may pass orders of dismissal against the striking workers, or cancel the registration of the trade union that committed such contravention.
Settlement of Individual Labour Disputes
Pursuant to Article 46 of the IRO 2002, a worker may bring his or her grievance in respect of any right guaranteed or secured by or under any law or any award or settlement to the notice of the employer in writing, either him or herself or through the shop steward or Collective Bargaining Agent, within one month of the day on which cause of such grievance arises. The IRO 2002 reduces the delay from three months to one month. Where a worker brings his or her grievance to the notice of the employer, the employer must within fifteen days of the grievance, communicate his or her decision in writing to the worker.
If the employer fails to communicate a decision within the specified period or if the worker is dissatisfied with such decision, the worker or shop steward may take the matter to the Labour Court within a period of two months.
Section 33 of the Industrial Relations Ordinance, 2002 permits any CBA or any employer to apply to the Labour Court for the enforcement of any right guaranteed or secured by law or any award or settlement. The Provincial Government derives its authority to establish as many Labour Courts as it considers necessary under section 44 of the Ordinance. Each Labour Court is subject to jurisdictional limitations derived by its geographical parameters or with respect to the industry or the classes of cases allocated. Each Labour Court consists of one Presiding Officer appointed by the Provincial Government.
The Labour Court adjudicates industrial disputes which have been referred to or brought before it; inquires into or adjudicates any matter relating to the implementation or violation of a settlement which is referred to it by the Provincial Government; tries offenses under the Industrial Relations Ordinance; and exercises and performs such other powers and functions conferred upon or assigned to it. While deliberating offenses, the Labour Court follows as nearly as possible procedure as prescribed under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898. For purposes of adjudicating and determining any industrial disputes, the Labour Court is deemed to be a Civil Court and retains the same powers as are vested in such Court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (Act V of 1908) including the enforcement of attendance and examination under oath, the production of documents and material objects, and the issuance of commissions for the examination of witnesses or documents.
An award or decision of a Labour Court is produced in writing and delivered in open Court with two copies subsequently forwarded to the Provincial Government. Upon receipt, the Provincial Government within a period of one month publishes the award or decision in the Official Gazette.
The IRO 2002 abolished the Labour Appellate Tribunal. Any party aggrieved by an award or a decision given or a sentence passed by the Labour Court may now submit an appeal to the High Court (Article 48 of the IRO 2002). The High Court, may vary or modify an award or decision or decision sanctioned by the Labour Court . It may, on its own motion at any time, call for the record of any case or proceedings in which a Labour Court within its jurisdiction has passed an order, for the purpose of satisfying itself as to the correctness, legality, or propriety of such order, and may pass such order, in relation thereto as it thinks fit, provided that the order does not adversely affect any person without giving such person a reasonable opportunity of being heard.