Salient Features of Labour Laws in Pakistan-II
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Trade Union and Employers Association Regulation
Freedom of association
The right to association is guaranteed by Article 17 of the Pakistani Constitution imparting on every citizen the right to form associations or unions, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of sovereignty or integrity of Pakistan , public order or morality. Under Article 3 of the IRO 2002, workers as well as employers in any establishment or industry have the right to establish and to join associations of their own choosing, subject to respect of the law. Both workers’ and employer’s organizations have the right to establish and join federations and confederations and any such organization, federation or confederation shall have the right to affiliate with international organizations and confederations of workers’ and employers’ organizations.
Registration of trade unions
Registration of a trade union is to be made under the Industrial Relations Ordinance. Workers’ trade unions are registered with the Registrar Trade Unions in the Province, and if the industry or establishment is nationwide with the National Industrial Relations Commission, after fulfilling a number of requirements, listed in Article 6 of the IRO 2002. Through its registration, the trade union obtains certain benefits: registration confers a legal existence as an entity separate from its members. Trade unions in Pakistan generally function on plant-wide basis, with their membership contingent on the size of the industry/trade to which they belong. Once established, the trade unions and employers’ associations have the right to draw up their constitutions and rules, to elect their representatives in full freedom, to organize their administration and activities and to formulate their programmes.
Collective Bargaining and Agreements
To determine the representative character of the trade union in industrial disputes and to obtain representation on committees, boards and commissions, the Industrial Relations Ordinance makes provision for the appointment of a Collective Bargaining Agent (CBA).
The CBA is a registered trade union elected by secret ballot. The CBA is entitled to undertake collective bargaining with the employer or employers on matters connected with employment, non-employment, the terms of employment or any right guaranteed or secured to it or any worker by or under any law, or any award or settlement.
Collective agreements are thus formulated by the CBA. The agreements may contain matters such as the facilities in the establishment for trade union activities and procedures for settling collective disputes including grievances and disciplinary procedures. Substantive provisions settle terms and conditions of employment, wages and salaries, hours of work, holiday entitlement and pay, level of performance, job grading, lay-offs, retrenchment, sick pay, pension and retirement schemes. Such agreements once duly executed by both parties become the source of law. The agreements should invariably be in writing and should be drafted with care, for they are meant to settle disputes rather than raise them.
In addition to statutory benefits under the labour laws, the adjustment of rights takes place through collective bargaining including adjudication in Labour Courts. The IRO 2002 has changed the appellate procedure on the provincial level, which used to be brought before a Labour Appellate Tribunal. This institution was abolished by the IRO 2002. Appeals of Labour Court decisions now lie directly with provincial High Courts. Office bearers of trade unions are given protection against arbitrary transfer, discharge and dismissal. Any ill-intentioned action on the part of the employer against an office-bearer of a trade union or against a worker for trade union activities, is construed as an unfair practice and the National Industrial Relations Commission is entrusted with the task of preventing such offenses. Security of service is ensured to the workers. Similarly, unfair labour practices on the part of workers and trade unions is elaborated and incorporated in law.