KARACHI - The lawyers bar and an NGO working on labour issue have announced to form a Free Legal Aid Cell (FLAC) to provide pro bono legal assistance to the workers of the City. It would also provide expert opinion on the Labour Charter as well as for the future legislations. The announcement was made at a consultation meeting with Karachi Bar Association (KBA), organised by Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) on Pro labour legislation at KBA office. KBA President Mohammad Ali Abbasi and General Secretary Naim Qureshi and a large number of advocates attended the meeting. A joint committee of advocates and labour leaders was formed on the occasion to give final shape to the Cell. The consultation was organized to help sensitize the lawyers on the issue of pro- labour legislation and seek their support in this regard. KBA President expressed his full support to the demands made in Labour Charter and said that legal fraternity was with the labour movement. In my view the country cannot progress unit the working class is not provided social justice, he remarked. The meeting was informed that a labour legislation that was inclusive and pro-workers was an effective tool to improve the status of labour rights and of social uplift of the working communities. Unfortunately the existing legal framework in Pakistan has failed to protect rights. Non-implementation of the existing labour laws is another issue denying justice to workers. Sharafat Ali of PILER told the meeting that most of the labour legislative changes during the last six dates had been retrogressive, anti-labour, and pro-capital and particularly pro-international finance. The current decade has witnessed replacement of earlier legislation with more restrictive Industrial Relations Ordinance 2002. He said the present government has repealed the draconian 2002 ordinance in haste and enacted the Industrial Relations Act 2008 for an interim period. Like the preceding laws the recently enacted legislation piece does not conform to the spirit of the Constitution embodied in its various Articles. Neither the Act is in compliance with the ILO Conventions No. 87 (freedom of association) and No. 98 (right to collective bargaining). The current government has initiated the process of consultation on three important labour legislation drafts. Under these circumstances, it is even more imperative that citizen sector organizations, like PILER, must continue their struggle for enabling labour legislation. Since the last many years, Sharafat Ali said that PILER had effectively advocated to get existing laws amended and frame new laws in favour of the workers. In 2008 PILER facilitated the labour movement to come up with a charter of demand to be submitted to the newly elected democratic government. PILER will continue policy advocacy with the parliament, political parties, trade unions, lawyers, WEBCOP and other stakeholders to amend and frame worker-friendly laws to ensure social justice, economic uplift and protection of the working communities. In addition, efforts will be made to amend all the discriminatory laws against women workers. PILER considers restructuring and reforms in labour judiciary as essential to ensure labour rights. A study on the performance and constraints of labour courts, conducted by PILER indicated inadequate number of judges in the labour judiciary, poor infrastructure, lack of proper training, low allocation of funds, weak structure and authority of labour courts. In addition, workers in need will be provided access to legal help and counselling, he added.