Evolution of Labour Legislation in Asia

title l contents l contributors l foreword l introduction l

chapter 1 l 2 l 3 l 4 l 5 l 6 l 7 l 8 l 9 l conclusion l


Chapter 4








Pre-Jndependence Period 

Until 1947, Pakistan was part of India ruled by the British as a colony, and therefore, up to 1947 it had a shared background with India in respect of labour laws. The history of labour legislation in the sub-continent can be traced back to the Employees and Workers Disputes Act, 1860 which provided for the speedy determination of disputes relating to wages of workers employed in railways, canals and other public works. This was followed by the Jndian Factories Act, 1881 and 1911 and the Mines Act, 1901 which were to provide mainly for regulating the working hours and other aspects in factories and mines.1

After the First World War the then British Government assumed a more active role in the field of labour legislation. For the first time the welfare of labourers and labour management relations were taken into consideration which resulted in the promulgation of the “Trade Union Act of 1926. This Act pro­vided for the right of the formation and registration of Trade Unions. According to this Act any dispute could be referred by the Government to a Court of Inquiry or Board of Conciliation. This power was however, discretionery and there was no permanent conciliation machinery. Such Courts dealt according to the provisions of the Civil Procedure Code 1908. Parties could be represented by a lawyer.

In 1928, the Government set up the Royal Commission of Labour with O.H. Whitley as its Chairman, on the basis of its recommendation were enacted the Factories Act 1934 and Payment of Wages Act 1936.

Amendments were also made in the Trade Dispute Act 1929 and as its consequence the definition of illegal strikes was altered and a provision for the appointment of a permanent conciliation officer was made.

During the Second World War the Government promulgated The Essential Service (Maintenance) Ordinance Act of 1941.

The Standing Orders Act 1946, provided for certain terms and conditions which every enterprise had to adopt, while the Industrial Dispute Act 1947 provided for conciliation and arbitration in Labour Disputes and also bestowed the right to strike on workers. This act mainly regulated the settlement of Industrial disputes by recourse to a definite procedure.

The Act, inter-alia, provided for the constitution of Workers Committees and reference of disputes by Government to a one man tribunal constituted for adjudication of that particular dispute. The Court was also empowered to try and punish the persons accused of certain offences mentioned in the Or­dinance. Industrial Courts comprised a Chairman and members. The Chairman was to be a serving or ex-judge of High Court or District Court and members were nominated one from workers and one from employers. The award of the Court was final and could not be challenged before any Court or Authority including the High Court and the Supreme Court.


Post Independence Period

In 1947 Pakistan achieved independence. Its two parts East and West Pakistan were separated from each other by a distance of a 1000 miles. East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) had one province and mainly Bengali population. It largely produced jute and rice.

West Pakistan comprised of 4 provinces which was Sind, Punjab, Baluchistan and the North West Frontier Province (N.W.F.P.), and was mainly agrarian. Punjab was mainly the producer of food grains and was known as the food basket of India. All these provinces had different sectors of population having different cultures, languages, literatures and historical backgrounds. One sector of population migrated from India. Thus there always had been clashes of interests, and social, political and financial differences. Punjab has always dominated the country and there has been resentment against Punjab as a result there was the loss of East Pakistan, and the present fierce fighting and bloodshed in Sind.

At the time of achieving independence pre-partition labour laws were pre­vailing but later on they were modified and codified according to our needs. Prior to achieving independence our economy was under imperialistic influence, even after independence the governing elements of our economy are the Capitalists, Land-owners and Feudalists whose interests are affiliated with im­perialistic powers. At the time of independence Pakistan inherited very few in­dustries and a labour force of about 4¼ million. A part of the Railways and Shipping fell to the share of Pakistan along with 2 textile mills, 2 cement factories, 11 spinning factories, one engineering company, one tramways company, some power stations and few oil companies. 50% capital was foreign and the remainder of the economy was in the hands of capitalists. The workers formed the Pakistan Trade Union Federation affiliated to the World Federation of Trade Unions. This was led by progressive labour leaders who struggled for the amendment of the Trade Unions Act of 1926. This Act gave the right of formation and registration of Trade Unions. Likewise this leadership sought the amendment of the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947 which gave the right of strike to workers.

Workers had acquired considerable security by 1948 but simultaneously the exploitation also increased as the rights and interests of labour clashed with those of capitalists and feudalists. In 1950 the Confederation of Free Trade Unions was formed and it played a vital part in dividing the labour. Khan Liaquat Au Khan, the then Prime Minister of Pakistan visited America and on his return, under the pretext of the Rawalpindi conspiracy case arrested a number of progressive labour leaders, writers and peasant leaders. From 195 1-53 after cease-fire in Korea, America provided financial and technical aid to Pakistan, and thus bureaucracy stepped into the economy of Pakistan. After the assassination of Khan Liaquat Ali Khan, a new group came into power and it comprised of army officials, politicians and bureaucracy.2

In 1958 Martial Law was imposed by General Mohammad Ayub Khan. The constitution of 1956 was abrogated, trade unions were abolished, their offices were sealed and a maximum punishment for strikes was imposed this being 12 years R.l. In 1959 the Industrial Dispute Act was repealed. The Act of 1926 was amended. It also made recognition of a trade union by the employer com­pulsory and it created Labour Courts for settlement of labour disputes. The right of appeal was granted against the Award of a Labour Court, the term work­man was redefined. After this Labour Policy there was increased investment in the private sector which paved the way for monopolies. In 1962 power was vested with the State instead of the people. The bourgeoisie dominated the economic policies and the legislature, which hindered the struggle of workers. There was increased restlessness and a number of strikes took place. In 1963 the East Pakistan Government promulgated The Labour Disputes Act and the Trade Unions Act which prohibited strikes and lock-outs during the pendency of proceedings before a Court or during the period of operation of a settlement or award. It also declared strikes in public utility services during arbitration and court proceedings as illegal. In 1967 the Social Security Or­dinance was promulgated. In 1968 the Standing Orders Ordinance was brought into existence for the benefit of workers.4 In 1969 postal employees and 60,000 other workmen proceeded to strike and got support from the public. Ayub Khan had to impose Martial Law and transfer power to General Mohammad Yahya Khan, who promulgated the new Labour Policy which guaranteed security of service and fixed wages. Labour Unions could be registered after fulfilling certain terms. The Collective Bargaining Agent was created in order to sabotage trade union activities and struggles because CBA could be won over easily. The first Industrial Relations Ordinance was promulgated in 1969. Workers were allowed gratuity, pension laws were improved and old age benefits sanctioned.5 This 1.R.O. was promulgated by Yhaya Khan as he wanted to continue in power as a President and divide Pakistan among Mujibur Rehman and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Along with this he abolished the electoral college of Ayub Khan and allowed adult franchise. He also broke up the Sinde-unit State and gave maximum facilities, autonomy and representation at the Centre to small provinces. He did considerable work in agriculture and industry, and planned for the only Steel Mill now working in Pakistan in collaboration with USSR. Simultaneously owners were given vast powers, they could remove any workman without notice. They could refuse to accept any Union. Workers were allowed to elect a representative who could participate in the meetings of the owners but had no power to mould or amend the policies of owners.


Disintegration of Pakistan and Emergence of New Pakistan

In the general election of 1970 the Awami League earned majority in Ban­gladesh and worked for the benefit of bourgeoise. The People’s Party was do­minated by capitalists and feudalists in Sind and Punjab. The National Awami Party and the Jamait-e-Islami in North West Frontier Province and Baluchistan, upheld the ideals of the bourgeoisie. After the formation of Bangladesh in 1972, in the remaining portion of Pakistan Mr Bhutto promulgated the new “socialistie policy” and this was named “A New Deal for Labour” and it aimed at a collective effort for a better Pakistan. Its main emphasis was on participa­tion of workers in management and decision making through workers represen­tation or management committees and joint management boards. Compensation for a workman as laid down in I.R.O. amendments 1973 are as follows:

(a)     In case of injury or disablement from Rs 17,000/- to Rs 20,000/-;

(b)    in case of death Rs 10,000/- to Rs 12,000/.6

It also included free medical aid, group insurance, free education, social security, but only some of the facilities could be utilised as the machinery which implemented the policies was the bureaucracy which had affiliations with capitalists and feudalists. With the new policy, lock-outs and retrenchments started and this created clashes between owners and workers. Bhutto used this situation to strengthen his rule. Workers were still oppressed and exploited. There was no right of strike and workers could not participate in the manage­ment. Nationalisation was unscientific and meant only the change of masters and opened new vista of corruption. The policies succumbed to red tapism of the bureaucracy. A parliamentary Constitution was given to Pakistan in 1973 which was signed and accepted by all the parties.


The Military and Jslamization Period

Since July 1977 when General Zia-ul-Haq took over conditions have re­mained the same. Trade Unions have been abolished. Legal Procedures are very complex. In 1978 some 40 Trade Unions and Union Federations formed the Pakistan Council of Labour Federation, which, however, is not representative enough to speak for all Pakistani Workers. There is also no representative body of employers. Though there is a Chamber of Commerce and Industry as well as a Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, they are of an advisory nature only. This which leads to blocks in communication creates hindrances to the amicable settlement of disputes. In 1980 Labour Policy was formulated in a new draft labour policy. The introduction to this draft states that there is an urgent need to revitalise the economy, requiring sustained effort to increase the level of productivity, promotion of investment and maximisation of employment. The draft also makes proposals regarding the reduction in the num­ber of trade unions, the limitation of the right to organise, the functioning of trade unions, the settlement of labour disputes, prohibition of strikes and lock outs in certain industries, worker participation in management, dismissal procedure, role of labour Courts, wages, bonus, education, medical aid, etc. This draft was submitted to a tripartite labour conference convened in 1980. The employers delegates did not agree to the embargo on organisations, dismissal, Collective bargaining, etc. Therefore the Government established a tripartite working group to try to arrive at agreed recommendations. The group had not completed its work till 1982. 

The present regime is so much under the influence of capitalist countries that it has created an Export Processing Zone near the Port of Karachi. The properties within this zone cannot be nationalised. The workers will be hired on contract and will have no right of forming unions or proceeding on strike. Martial Law Regulation No. 51 is also disastrous for the labour and trade union activities. It lays down that any person in the service of a corporation cannot take part in any sort of agitational activity. Any person involved in any such activity shall be dealt with by military Court and face a punishment the maximum of which is 5 years and 5 lashes.7 After the promulgation of the Provisional announcement aimed at weakening labour, Workers are not allowed to form unions when there are less than 50 workers, which would effect 7833 factories. Educational institutions, from school to university are deprived of their right of forming unions. Government employees except railway and tele­communication are barred from forming unions. Different organisations, under one owner cannot form a union collectively. In this way 70% of workmen are barred from forming a union. Contract workers cannot form unions nor can they demand any 3ecurity and can be ousted out at any time. Labourers are still struggling and fighting against these unjust rules through trade unions.8

In December, 1977 a tripartite national labour conference was held. Sub­sequent to that in early 1978 a tripartite national labour commission was formed and this comprised of S members, including representatives of employers and workers, and was entrusted with the task of submitting reports on labour situa­tions in the country and making recommendations for a new labour relations policy. It was set up as claimed, to promote the legitimate interests of workers with the objective of promoting investment in the productive sectors, to study the rapidly growing labour force and improving the economic efficiency of the production units in the interests and the rapid growth in the economy with reliance on industrial peace. The report of the Commission was presented in 1979 but was not made public.

After examining the report the Government Constitution Order in 1980 the Revisional and Review powers were withdrawn from the High Court and the Supreme Court. Appellate powers are also limited. The bourgeoisie is playing a vital role in sabotaging the process of a programmed evolution of labour legisla­tion. There are 22 families who are mainly dominating the economy of Pakistan. They have foreign affiliations and enterprises outside Pakistan. They have dual nationalities so any law or policy which does not suit them cannot be pro­mulgated. They secretly threaten the Government with the withdrawal of their assets from Pakistan and investing elsewhere. Thus the Government bows down as it cannot afford the loss caused by such withdrawals. Even the nationalisation policies of Bhutto could not be implemented properly due to this pressure.

Workers in Pakistan are fighting for their right of forming trade unions and for a determination of their position in the economy of Pakistan. To achieve their share and interest. The system of the Collective Bargaining Agent (CBA) is not satisfactory. The CI3A represents a number of unions in some cases 80 to 85 unions. Workers are also struggling against the bureaucracy of Pakistan and the policy of colonialism of the capitalist countries who supply raw materials, finance, technical aid and machinery to Pakistan. They keep the country’s economy in a state of depression.


Women Workers:

In the general context, Pakistan women workers are in a state of severe plight in that they are exploited both by the employers and fellow workers. Though the constitution of Pakistan bestows equal rights on women, in reality they are insecure and oppressed.9 Alter the process of lslamization the govern­ment has issued secret directives that women should not be appointed to key posts and such circumstances are created for those presently working that they are compelled to resign. In rural areas the women are treated like herds of animals. Their worth and work are not even recognised.10 At present male workers, mainly dominated by Jamait-e-Islami having Government support have refused to work with women workers in factories and offices. They have advanced the condition that separate space and separate transport be provided for women. This blackmailing has had its results. Industrialists would not risk their money for separate space and transport and they know that women are physically weak, and that their service depends on the wishes of their fathers, brothers or husbands. They very often take maternity leave and this too goes against them. The law provides certain facilities for women workers, i.e. maternity leave with pay for 3 months. They are not posted in night shifts. There is no discrimination in wages. Lately a women’s division has been es­tablished to look into the problems of women and their solutions.11


General Analyses.

At present it is not only the workers of Pakistan who are under great stress and uncertainty the whole nation is in a state of confusion. The Constitution of Pakistan is as good as abrogated. The country is governed by the civil law (more or less same as was in British India) Islamic Laws, and military rules. There is so much of chaos in this regard and the legal framework remains in­determinate. What shape the Islamic Laws will take in this modern world in Pakistan is being worked out by 6 bodies in Pakistan which include (1) the Federal Shariat Court, (2) The Council of Islamic Ideology, (3) Majlis-e-Shoora, (4) Islamic University Institution of Training in Shariat, (5) Islamic Research Institution, and (6) Pakistan Law Commission. But they are still in the process of studying the situation and the laws and at the most at the stage of making proposals. There are different sects in Islam and each has different laws on marriage, divorce, succession, evidence and punishment. Therefore, the proper implementation and formation of islamic Laws is not yet possible in Pakistan. But there are “Shariat Courts” up to the level of Supreme Court. There has so far been a sort of interpretation of Islamic Laws as distinct from the applica­tion of their laws. The lower Shariat Courts are dealing with cases according to Islamic Laws but the punishment awarded, i.e. whipping, stoning to death, etc., have not been carried out.

Pakistan has no single law, but multiple laws, with the issuance of Martial Law Order (M.L.O.) the shape of the present law, including the labour laws has been disfigured. There is no foundation to stand on. So with disparity in cul­tures, languages and interests, along with uncertain and misshaped laws, labour in Pakistan stands on uncertain ground. There are no set rules and laws. The process of making, abolishing and remaking law is going on and there seems no end to it. All depends on what suits the military regime.



1.        Fatal Accident Act 1855;

2.        Railways Act 1890;

3.        Workmen Compensation Act 1923;

4.        Merchant Shipping Act 1923;

5.        Exemption from the Provision of Mines Act 1923;

6.        Mines Act 1923;

7.        Children (Pleading of Labours Act) 1933;

8.        Dock Labourers Act 1934;

9.        Factories Act 1934;

10.      Payment of Wages Act 1936;

11.      Employers’ Liability Act 1938;

12.      Employment of Children Act 1938;

13.      War Injuries Ordinance 1941;

14.      Mines Maternity Benefit Act 1941;

15.      Motor Vehicles (Drivers) Ordinance 1942;

16.      Industrial Statistics Act 1942;

17.      War injuries Compensation Insurance Act 1943;

18.      Merchant Seaman (Litigation) Act 1946;

19.      Essential Personnel (Registration) Act 1948;

20.      Employment (Record of Services) Act 1951;

21.      Pakistan Essential Services (Maintenance) Act 1952;

22.      Punjab Essential Services (Maintenance) Act 1958;

23.      Sind Essential Services (Maintenance) Act 1958;

24.      West Pakistan Essential Services (Maintenance) Act, 1958;

25.      West Pakistan Essential Services (Maintenance) Act, N.W.F.P. 1958;

26.      West Pakistan Maternity Benefit Ordinance 1958;

27.      Coal Mines (Fixation of Rates of Wages) Ordinance. 1960; 

28.      Pakistan Ordinance Factories Board Ordinance, 1961;

29.      Road Transport Workers Ordinance 1961;

30.      Minimum Wages Ordinance 1961;

31.      Tea Plantations Labour Ordinance 1962;

32.      Control of Employment Ordinance 1965;

33.      Provincial Employees Security Ordinance 1965;

34.      Reservists (Re-instatement in Civil Employment) Ordinance 1965;

35.      Apprenticeship Ordinance 1966;

36.      Excise Duty on Minerals (Labour Welfare) Act 1967;

37.      Companies Profits (Workers Participation) Act, 1968;

38.      West Pakistan Industrial and Commercial Employment (Standing Orders) Ordinance 1968;

39.      West Pakistan Industrial Relations Ordinance, 1969;

40.      West Pakistan Railway Servants’ Benevolent Fund Ordinance 1969;

41.      West Pakistan Railway Servants’ Welfare Fund Ordinance 1969;

42.      West Pakistan Shops & Establishments Ordinance 1969;

43.      West Pakistan Minimum Wages for unskilled Workers Ordinance 1969;

44.      Pakistan National Service Ordinance, 1970;

45.      Workers Welfare Fund Ordinance 1971;

46.      Compulsory Services (Armed Forces) Ordinance 1971;

47.      Punjab Fair Price Shops (Factories) Ordinance 1971;

48.      Workers’ Children (Education) Ordinance 1972;

49.      News Paper Employees (Conditions of Service) Act 1973;

50.      Dock Workers (Regulation of Employment) Act, 1974;

51.      Fee charging Employment Agencies (Regulation) Act, 1976;

52.      Employees Old Age Benefits Act, 1976;

53.      N.W.F.P. Fair Price Shops (Factories) Ordinance, 1983.



1.        Labour Code;

2.        industrial Relation Ordinance, 1969;

3.        Constitution of Pakistan, 1973;

4.        Manual of Labour Laws;

5.        I.L.O. Reports on Labour Conditions in Asia (1979-81);

6.        Central Statutes (Vol. II);

7.        Standing Orders, 1968;

8.        Martial Law Regulations (1977-82);

9.        Survey of Distribution of Labour Force published by Govt. of Sind

    (1974-8 1);

10.      Survey of Distribution of Finance published by Govt. of Sind (1974-81);

11.      Reports published by Women’s Division, Islamabad;

12.      “Evolution of Trade Union in Pakistan” by Fasihuddin Salar.






1.    Labour Legislation in Historical Prospective by Rasheed Amjad.

2.    Evolution of Trade Union in Pakistan.

3.    By Fasihuddin Salar.

4.    Standing Orders 1968.

5.    Industrial Relation Ordinance, 1969.

6.    Central Statistic Vol. II.

7.    Martial Law Regulation 1977-82.

8.    Survey of Distribution of Labour Force by Govt. of Sind 1974-81.

9.    Constitution of Pakistan.

10.   Reports of 1981 — Women's Division Islamabad.

11.   Reports of 1981 — Women's Division lslamabad.



title l contents l contributors l foreword l introduction l

chapter 1 l 2 l 3 l 4 l 5 l 6 l 7 l 8 l 9 l conclusion l