High-level Social Dialogue Workshop in Sialkot

Stakeholders reached a consensus on July 26, 2010 to recommend formation of Social Dialogue Mechanism for Sialkot to boost the exports. The Prime Minister’s Advisor on Labour issues, Mr Hafeezullah Cheema supervised the consensus building social dialogue workshop organized by the Employers Federation of Pakistan (EFP) in collaboration with the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industries (SCCI). Pakistan Workers Federations (PWF) also actively participated in the deliberations.

Press release | 26 July 2010

The key outcome of the workshop was the stakeholders’ recommendation to form a sub-committee for the promotion social dialogue within Sialkot District. It was also agreed that the sub-committee will be chaired by the President of SCCI and will have appropriate representations from the PWF, EFP, SCCI and the Labour Department, Government of Punjab Province. It was also envisaged that the sub-committee will report to the provincial level taskforce on Decent Work chaired by the provincial secretary labour, government. EFP will follow-up to ensure that the Social Dialogue Mechanism is established at Sialkot level.

The seminar was attended by a large number of business leaders from Sialkot, lead by the President of the SCCI, trade union leaders, government officials, representatives of the civil society, and representative of the US Embassy. The Prime Minister’s Advisor was also accompanied by Mr Iqbal Tariq Puri, Secretary Ministry of Labour and Manpower. A large delegation of PWF under the leadership of Mr Khurshid Ahmed, General Secretary, participated in the deliberations. Mr Haji Muhammad Javed, President of the EFP, Mr Khawaja Nauman, Vice President EFP, and various members of the EFP Managing Committee were also present at the event.

Earlier, speaking on the occasion, Mr Cheema, advisor to the Prime Minister, stressed the need for practicing social responsibility by the corporate sector, especially in the export oriented industries. He suggested that the world expect the corporate sector to promote decent work, allow the freedom of association and rights for collective bargaining. He appreciated ILO work to help the soccer ball industry to address child labour issues.

Similarly, Mr Iqbal Puri, Secretary Ministry of Labour and Manpower, appreciated the spirit of the business community in Sialkot that has now even managed to build their own airport. He expressed his confidence that SCCI will certainly succeed in developing and implementing a dynamic social dialogue mechanism for Sialkot that could be later replicated in other parts of the country.

Mr Haji Muhammad Javed, President Employers Federation of Pakistan, shared the brief background of the efforts of EFP to improve the social dialogue in Sialkot after the Nike-SAGA dispute. He said that with the help of the ILO, various partners through extensive consultations have agreed to the Sialkot Initiative in 2007 and now there is a need to undertake more measures to further implement it.

Mr Khurshid Ahmed, General Secretary, Pakistan Workers Federations (PWF) emphasized that social dialogue proves beneficial for both employers and workers. He stressed the need to comply with the International Labour Standards. He said that independence does not only mean freedom to vote, it also means social justice, economic justice and guarantees of all workers rights. He emphasized that the workers must be considered as partners in production. He said that minimum wages need to be protected, and work places need to be made safer to avoid work related accidents. He suggested that the Sialkot Initiative is a good example to reach consensus and work towards achieving social dialogue.

Mr Donglin Li, Country Director, ILO Country Office for Pakistan, appreciated the importance of the Government, employers’ and workers’ organizations which are working to promote social dialogue in Pakistan. He indicated that in 2007, all stakeholders asked ILO to provide its technical assistance after the Nike-Saga incident. He said that ILO played the facilitation role to help national and international stakeholders to reach a consensus on the Sialkot Initiative in 2007 on follow-up actions. He stated that under the Decent Work Task Force, a sub-committee was also formed and chaired by the Secretary Labour Government of Punjab. Mr Li also expressed the commitment of the ILO to continue to provide technical assistance to its tri-partite constituents to help promote social dialogue.

Mr Saifullah Chaudhry, Senior Programme Office, ILO Country Office for Pakistan, made a technical presentation on the Sialkot imitative and the salient feature of the proposed project, which was developed through extensive consultations with various stakeholders in Sialkot.

President of the Sialkot Chamber, Mr Muhammad Ishaq Butt, speaking on the initiative stated that Sialkot Chamber has always supported the cause of Social responsibility. However SME industries at Sialkot are always short of funds to comply with the principles of corporate social responsibility. Buyers are also not showing willingness to share the cost of social responsibility. He showed his concern of why only the soccer ball industry is being asked to do more and more. Social compliance is an issue for all of Pakistan and not only Sialkot. He said that he would like the support of the Government in building capacity of IMAC and other stakeholders.

The workshop concluded with a note of thanks from EFP, for the active participation of all stakeholders.