National Assembly: MPs’ 741 interventions focus on labour laws

ISLAMABAD, March 3, 2013: Formation of trade unions, relations between employees and employers, recruiting policies in government service and social security institutions were the lawmakers’ focus on the issue of employment in the 13th National Assembly, says a Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) report on Sunday.

Overall 741 parliamentary interventions on employment were made in the 13th National Assembly – 653 questions, 34 resolutions, 23 bills, 10 calling attention notices, 20 motions under rule 259, and one matter of public importance. The main opposition party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, made most of the parliamentary interventions – 424 – on employment, followed by the Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians 170, Muttahida Qaumi Movement 84, and Pakistan Muslim League 30.

The report is based on the direct observation the National Assembly’s regular sessions (1-48) in the five parliamentary years.

Twelve treasury backed bills on allowing trade activities, reinstating sacked employees, income support programme, amending criterion for hiring chairperson in the oil and gas authority, setting up a commission on vocational training, regulate the education and practice of engineering and other employment issues were passed. Young doctors’ strike in Islamabad’s public hospitals forced the government to introduce a bill on their service restructure but it was not passed.

However the lower house ignored private members’ bills that called for protecting the rights of home-based workers, in-house working women, child labour, restriction on reemployment in government service and allowing women workers flexible working hours.

Two private members’ bills introduced in the first parliamentary year on ensuring social protection for home-based workers and in-house working women remained ignored.  Similarly two private members’ bills on child rights which also deal with the issue of child labour calling for protecting children from economic exploitation have not been passed. Another private member bill introduced by a PMLN legislator in the second parliamentary year on restricting reemployment in government service remained unnoticed.

In the first parliamentary year, a government bill calling for repealing ban on trade activities in Pakistan International Airlines was passed. The ban was imposed by the military government in 2001. The Sacked Employees Reinstatement Act was passed to reinstate employees hired in autonomous, semi-autonomous or government service in 1993-96 and sacked between 1996-99 through golden handshakes during the governments of the PPPP and PMLN respectively.

Another important legislation was the Industrial Relations Act, which allows and regulates the formation of trade unions.  The passage of the Boilers and Pressure Vessels (Amendment) Act increased the time period for which a certified boiler engineer can remain in service. Moreover, the National Vocational and Technical Training Commission Bill provided for the formation of an autonomous body to provide technical training. The lower house also passed the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP).

Two treasury backed resolutions on unemployment and reinstatement of teachers in Dera Ismail Khan were adopted by the house while 32 others were not taken up or deferred. Twenty three of these resolutions were presented by PMLN.

Through these resolutions legislators called upon the government to control unemployment, increase basic salaries, implement the decision on minimum wage, increase funds for Pakistan Bait-ul-Maal to help needy women and children, along with the issues of pension and insurance of government employees.

Legislators also drew attention to unemployment through 20 motions under rule 259, of which only one presented by a PMLN legislator was taken up. The issue of child labour was brought on the floor of the house by PPPP members as a matter of public importance.

Out of ten calling attention notices on employment, only one was taken up. Through these notices, the legislators wanted to discuss child labour, suicides due to unemployment, payment of salaries and other issues.

Eighty eight percent of the 741 parliamentary interventions were questions asked of various government departments by parliamentarians. Out of the total 653 questions put by lawmakers, relevant ministers replied fully to 565 (86%). Most of the legislators’ questions – 245 – were about labour laws.

About FAFEN: FAFEN is a network of 42 civil society organizations working to foster democratic accountabilities in Pakistan. It is governed by Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability.