Assessing the Impact of Labour Policy of 1972 on Industrial Relations in Pakistan.

Byline: Iftikhar Ahmad Tarar


The genesis of a labour policy lies in the fact that the government has to derive its approach and vision encompassing harmonious industrial relations. All the future actions of the government i.e. judicial, administrative and legislative depend on the labour policy. So, from the dawn of emancipation from colonial clutches in 1947, six labour policies have been tried i.e. 1955, 1959, 1969, 1972, 2002 and 2010. In post independence era, the nascent state of Pakistan remained without any formal labour policy for about eight years. Like other limps of the government, the domain of labour had to depend on the piece work already undertaken its predecessor British Government in India. Actually, the Government of India had already taken up a programme, as a result of that initiative; a five years strategy was devised to ameliorate the status of the workers after soliciting the approval of relevant bodies in Pakistan.

So, the first Labour Policy of 1955 remained a dead letter and could not bring about envisioned out come due to, inter alia, political instability in the country.

Constitutional Perspectives

Under chapter-II of the constitution of 1956, the labour was guaranteed the equality before law and was held to be treated fairly in terms of equality and protection of law1. Moreover, no individual was to be treated detrimentally to his life and liberty but in accordance with law.2 Right of speech and expression was also acknowledged to be the fundamental right of the workers subject to those reasonable restrictions which might be prescribed by framing law under the garb of security of Pakistan, friendly relation with other countries, public order, decency and morality3. The state was also entitled to impose restriction on such right under the premise of contempting the court, defaming or inciting to offence4. Likewise, citizens (including workers) had a right of assemblage in a peaceful manner without arms5. However, as per policy, the state reserved the power to impose restrictions by enacting law under the garb of public order6.

More importantly, the late constitution also guaranteed the freedom to associate by forming associations and trade unions but under such restrictions which might be prescribed, by framing law, in the interest of public order or morality7. The slavery and forced labour in any form was totally proscribed8. The state, however, reserved the authority to demand compulsory services from any citizen in public interest9.

The Constitution of 1962

Like its predecessor, the constitution of 1962 also assured various initiatives for the uplift of the workers. Albeit, at the time of commencement, fundamental rights were not provided in it, but as a result in the wake of an amendment, the same were incorporated in the constitution. The principle of equality was retained under the new constitutional arrangements10. Freedom of expression was also ensured but the areas of restrictions to be imposed by law were broadened11. For instance, the areas like prevention of commission of offence, grant of privilege, in proper cases, to a particular proceeding and protection of persons against any attack on their reputation were missing in previous constitution12. The right of assemblage of the citizens, peacefully and without arms, and freedom to form association or trade union was also included as fundamental right13.

But, like freedom of expression, the area of a restriction was expended by including therein the security of Pakistan, prevention of commission of offence, decency, morality and protection of persons in respect of their health or property14. Although, the fundamental rights could find place onto the constitution at a later stage but the initiative seemed as if had been bogged in as it happened to enhance the list of fundamental rights. Protection against forced labour was retained as fundamental right of the citizens but besides allowing it in the public interest, it was also permitted as a punishment for an offence against the state15.

In chapter-III of the constitution of 1956, policy of the state was stated as a symbol of futuristic strategy. Although these principles, unlike fundamental rights, cannot be enforced in any court of law but as stated earlier, they depict the vision of the state as to different social issues. In the said constitution, principles of state policy encompassing the labour were as under; Under Article 28 of the constitution of 1956, the state undertook to ensure enabling working condition to the workers specifically, to ensure that the children and the female were not engaged in a profession which would not commensurate to their sex and age. Moreover, as a state policy, the state had to concentrate on ensuring maternity benefits to the female workers. Similarly, the state had pledged to create employment opportunities by way of industrial development.

Under Article 29 of the late constitution, the state policy was to secure the well being of the people by; (a) free of discrimination based on creed, care or caste; by elevating the standard of living of an ordinary man; by discouraging the accumulation sources and resources in few hands and by guaranteeing equitable adjustment of rights amongst the employees, employers and the tenants. The state was obliged to extend to entire citizenry, within the size of the sources, opportunities of employment, decent livelihood and proper leisure and rest. The state also took upon to extend social security to entire workforce both in public or private sector by way of social insurance or any other way. In Pakistan, the constitutional landscape appears to be tight fisted in making any expressing provision encompassing the various aspects of proletariat class. A careful perusal of the constitution reveals that general provisions have been made in this regard.

For instance, state has to ensure prompt elimination of any form of exploitation from the society and systematic accomplishment of the principle of payment from each according to his affordability, to each according to his work16. Similarly, forced labour in any shape has been proscribed and children below the age of sixteen year would not be employed in any factory, mine or other dangerous profession17. As a mark of futuristic, promotion of educational and economical interests, making arrangements for just and decent conditions of work, guaranteeing that chaps and females are not engaged in employments unmatched to their sex or age and availability of maternity advantages for the female workers during their employment have been regarded to be the constitutional features of the state policy18.

On the same pattern, the state has set as its policy to ensure the furtherance of social and economic uplift of its masses by securing their well being, by elevating their style of living, by discouraging the accumulation of capital. In Pakistan, almost all the labour policies have been situational in nature. Principally, they have been in quest of welfare of the proletariats and maintenance of industrial peace. In the ensuing narration, successes and failures of the rulers shall be weighed in the light of rhetorics and initiatives taken as a result of the policy. However, before embarking upon the dogmatic synthesis of various aspects of the policy, it is expedient to lay down the salient points of the said policy.

The policy, inter alia, emphasized on the following points; (a) commencement of group incentive scheme, (b) establishment of National Industrial Relations Commission, (c) promotion of legitimate unionism (d) seeking help all the stake holders, (e) protection from victimization and dealing with the instances of unfair labour practices on part of either of the parties, and (f) linkage of wages with the prices. Being a main stream political party, it was incumbent upon the Pakistan People's Party to materialize its rhetoric and to what extent it had succeeded? This can be gauged from a narration made by the Government while announcing new Labour Policy in 2002. It was frankly confessed by the then government that the labour policy of 1972 entailed labour reforms of far reaching consequences on legislative frontier19.

Specifically, "Labour Laws (Amendment) Ordinance (XI of 1972)", "Industrial Relations (Amendment) Ordinance (KLVIII, 1972)", and "Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act XXIX of 1973" brought about revolutionary changes on the legislative frontiers. So, in coming sections of this paper, some principal laws encompassing various aspects of the workers in Pakistan shall be focused in the light of the rhetorics made in the labour policy. As a first step, the impact of labour policy on the "Industrial and Commercial Employment (Standing Orders) Ordinance, 1968", a pre-partition enactment, shall be examined. Status of a badly worker, who hitherto had carried no weight, had been enhanced through an amendment20 by including him in the category of the permanent worker provided he had rendered a continuous service of three moths or one hundred and eighty three days in any span of twelve consecutive months.

Similarly, the inclusion of apprentice in the inventory of workers turned out to be a panacea and brought about solace for the apprentices21. Added to the above was another blessing in the form of insertion of Standing Order No. 2-A which made it obligatory for the employer of every industrial and commercial establishment to an appointment, promotion or the transfer order in writing incorporating therein, clearly, all conditionalities attached with the service of the worker22. Moreover, it was owing to a pledge made in the labour policy that the workers of industrial and commercial establishments were held to be entitled to, with pay, certain categories of holidays23. Besides these benevolent legislative initiatives, insertion of Standing Orders No. 10-A24, 10-B25 and 10-C26 are considered to be the most revolutionary outcome...

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