Minimum wage likely to be raised to at least Rs32,000, says labour minister

Our Correspondent
Thursday, Jun 08, 2023

After a fresh increase in the current year, the minimum monthly wage of labourers in Sindh is likely to range between Rs32,000 and Rs35,000. This was disclosed by Labour and Human Resources Minister Saeed Ghani while talking to the media at the provincial assembly on Wednesday.Ghani acknowledged that the destitute and middle-income families have been the worst sufferers of the prevailing situation of massive hike in the prices of essential products. He informed the media that the minimum wage board of the province has started its work to prepare recommendations for raising the minimum monthly salary of workers in the province in the current year.

He recalled that two years ago Sindh had become the first province to increase the minimum monthly salary of workers to Rs25,000. He informed journalists that his labour department has already taken certain pro-workers steps before the unveiling of the provincial budget for the new financial year. He said the death grant for the family members of a deceased worker in Sindh has been increased from Rs500,000 to Rs700,000. He added that the assistance provided by the government for the wedding of a labourer’s daughter has been increased from Rs100,000 to Rs200,000.

He also said the assistance provided for the education of each child of a worker has been increased from Rs6,000 to Rs10,000. He added that the amounts of different scholarships offered to the children of labourers has also been increased. Ghani said that medical care and other essential assistance will be provided for free to registered labourers having Benazir Mazdoor Cards. He reiterated the demand for the devolution of the Workers Welfare Fund and the Employees Old-age Benefits Institution in line with the 18th constitutional amendment.

Local government Replying to a question, he clarified that nowhere in the provincial local government law is it written that a candidate must secure a minimum of 184 votes from the members of the city council to become Karachi mayor. He said that a candidate who commands the confidence of majority of the members of the House will become mayor. He advised the Jamaat-e-Islami’s mayoral election candidate, JI city chief Hafiz Naeemur Rehman, to prove his claim on June 15 that he is backed by 193 members of the city council.

Ghani told the media that the JI was the first political party to suggest an unelected member could become city mayor. He recalled that none of the PA members had opposed when an amendment was moved in the House to make such a provision in the LG law. He said that even the JI’s MPA had voted in favour of the amendment. He was of the view that the JI city chief moving the court on this issue has been trying to delay the mayoral election after sensing he does not have the support of majority of the House members. He advised Rehman to first check and confirm whether or not he has the support of all the newly elected members of the city council from his own party. The minister said that a number of newly elected LG representatives belonging to the JI do not like the city chief of their party due to his politics of hatred, division and bias.

Labour leaders

Expressing grave concern about the failing economy and a looming human crisis across the country, labour leaders have asked the rulers to take drastic steps in the coming budget to check the uncontrollable food inflation and the rising unemployment. Addressing a joint press conference at the Karachi Press Club on Wednesday, they said that the wrong economic policies of the rulers have resulted in a grave crisis for workers. They pointed out that more than 100 million workers have fallen below the poverty line.

They suggested that to bring the country out of this economic crisis, the rulers need to take urgent and basic steps. They asked fixing the minimum monthly wage at Rs50,000 and slashing non-productive expenses by 50 per cent. Nasir Mansoor of the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) said that if the crucial agreement with the EU on GSP+ (annual support of €13 billion for Pakistani industries, especially textile and garments) is not revived, it would result in massive joblessness.

He estimated the rate of unemployment to be a million. He pointed out that the revival of this agreement rests on following the conditionalities of the deal between the EU and our government. Mansoor said that during the past five years the real wages of workers have fallen by 65 per cent, while millions of workers face poverty and hunger. He said that in 2018 the minimum wage of Pakistani workers was equal to $133 but now it is just $87.

Gul Rehman of the Workers Rights Movement said that the growing price hike, especially the highest food inflation in the history of Pakistan, has compelled millions of worker families to live miserable lives. Rehman said that the price hike rate in the country is 50 per cent, which is also the highest in the history of this country, adding that Pakistan has even left Sri Lanka behind in chances of default. He said that due to the sharp inflation, workers no longer have purchasing power. He also said that according to an estimate, four million more worker families would fall below the poverty line by the end of this year. They said that hunger, joblessness and poverty is everywhere in the country.

Zehra Khan of the Home-Based Women Workers Federation said that the past and present rulers have adopted wrong policies to put the brakes on the production process. She said that the growth rate would likely fall into the minus territory. Workers are being sacked from factories, she added.

She also said that there are more than 22.5 million unemployed people in Pakistan, around 8.5 per cent of the national population. She pointed out that in the next six months a million more workers are likely to be sacked. No relief is expected in the budget for these jobless workers, she lamented.

Zehra said that the earnings of the people of Pakistan are spent on costly foreign loans and their interest, defence expenses and expenditures of the federal government, so nothing is left for the welfare of the people. She said that the killer debt trap has affected this nation dangerously. Unfortunately, she added, political parties, the parliament, the judiciary and the establishment are fighting among themselves instead of fighting the economic crisis because they are the least concerned about the plight of the poor. Aqib Hussain of Alternate said that the violent incidents of May 9 are the result of the policies of those elements and powerful personalities who groomed an undemocratic gang and introduced them to politics, casting negative effects on both the economy and politics.

Hussain said that these antidemocratic gangs are using one another to play musical chairs in our politics. He called for the working class to reject these gangs. The speakers demanded that besides fixing the minimum wage at Rs50,000, the government should also work on fixing the living wages of the workers. Social security and pension should be made mandatory, and pension should be equal to at least the minimum wage, they said.

They also said that quality education should be provided by the state for free. Public transport fares should be slashed by 50 per cent, while consumers using up to 300 units should be charged fixed tariff, they added.The speakers said that agricultural reforms should be introduced, and government lands should be provided to landless haris for free. They said that agricultural tax should be recovered from landlords.

They asked to supply gas and electricity to the export industry without load-shedding. They also asked that subsidies be given on basic food items. They called for improving relations with Pakistan’s neighbours, especially India. They stressed on stopping the practice of the disappearance of political workers. They also emphasised that civilians accused of a crime should not be tried by military or anti-terrorist courts.

Qazi Khizer, Sindh vice chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Ghulam Mehboob of the PC Workers Union, Saira Feroz of the United HB Garments Workers Union, Sara Khan Advocate, NTUF Chairman Taufeeq Ahmed, and Saeed Baloch of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum were also present on the occasion.