CHI - Employees Old-age Benefit Institution (EOBI) Chairman Zafar Iqbal Gondal, on Tuesday said that his organisation would soon start self-registration of all workers as committed by the government in Labour Policy announced on May Day this year. Now any cook, home worker or any labour can walk into designated branches of the bank along with identity card and get himself or herself registered.
Gondal was speaking at a reception hosted by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) for EOBI trainees at the PILER Centre here. He said that the EOBI provides old-age pension (post retirement), invalidity pension (in case of permanent disability), old-age grant (after an insured person attain superannuation age, but does not posses the minimum threshold for pension), and survivors pension (in case an insured person is expired) to all employees.
The EOBI Chairman pointed out that his organisation has also started registration of the business establishments that are doing businesses but their workers are not registered. For example, he said till last year only eight brick kilns were registered, but now their number has increased to 60.
Similarly, he said thousands of CNG stations are working across the country, but only a small number of their employees are registered.
The EOBI Chairman agreed that his organisation hasnt succeeded in issuing cards to all the new registered workers on time. It is also correct that many employers underpay contribution while majority remains uncovered. Similarly, a large majority of the power loom and mining sectors workers also remain unregistered. Gondal quoted instances in which on the basis of list provided by trade unions, the workers were registered. He pledged that all registered workers would be provided EOBI cards at their residential addresses. This is a revision of the earlier policy through which employers were provided the social security card, but they seldom passed these on to the employees.
He asked worker leaders and trade unions to provide lists of the workers eligible for registration to expand the coverage of workers in the EOBI. He assured that the list of employees provided by the labour leaders would be kept confidential.
Gondal held three elements responsible for manipulation in pension funds or non-registration of the workers. These are the local leader of trade unions, EOBI corrupt officials and management of the factory. We have to break this nexus and demonstrate greater commitment for workers registration.
The new labour policy has also made the EOBI pension universalised. The EOBI has launched a website and any worker can verify his record and status of his registration.
Executive Director PILER, Karamat Ali said under the ILO Convention 102 it is the states responsibility to provide social security all citizens.
Unfortunately, only a small number of workers are covered under the social security schemes in Pakistan. About 92 percent workers are employed in the informal sector, where they do not have even basic labour rights.
Ali pointed out to the current amount of pension, which he said is inadequate. The minimum amount of pension should be calculated in proportion with the pension of judges, which is 80 percent of the last drawn salary. He said that the absence of social security facilities in the country is a major source of insecurity and unrest in the country.
He underlined the need for universalised social security system in Pakistan. Under the current set of rules, if a worker is working in Sindh, but his family lives in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, his family members cannot avail health or education facilities in their home province. Under the ILO Convention 102 Clause 65, non-resident workers have the same rights as of resident workers, he added.
The PILER Executive Director said that under the SAARC Convention, SAARC workers would have portable social security rights by 2015. However, in Pakistan no serious measures have been taken to implement this decision.
He pointed out that in Pakistan there is no wealth tax, whereas poor people are taxed aggressively through indirect taxes. He suggested imposing 'Tobin Tax, along the lines of Europe. This tax is collected on financial transactions and serves as a contribution towards social security.
Senior trade union leader Farid Awan said that only 2 percent of countrys GDP is kept for health and education, which is insufficient. In Pakistan, the tax-to-GDP ratio is 9 or 10 percent, where as there is no tax on agriculture which contributes 26 percent to the GDP.
Highlighting the poor shape of unionisation, Awan said that only 4-5 percent workers have the right to join trade unions. And Pakistan is the country which has ratified the highest number of ILO Conventions. About 35 ILO Conventions have been signed.
Qamoos Gul Khattak, Secretary General of Muttahida Labour Federation said no consultation was carried out before framing the IRA-2008.
Earlier, Ms Zeenat Hisam gave an introduction of PILER to the participants. The participants asked various questions from the speakers. Joint Director of PILER Zulfiqar Shah presented vote of thanks and Ms Zeenia Shaukat conducted the programme.