All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) to continue Wage Board boycott -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) to continue Wage Board boycott

KARACHI- The All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) will fight back all pressures aimed at curbing the freedom and viability of the Press, a press release of the APNS quoted its Secretary General Arshad A Zuberi.

Zuberi that a high-powered committee of the APNS on Wage Board met here under the chairmanship of Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman and decided to continue its boycott of the Wage Board “if the assurances on procedural safeguards sought by the APNS are not provided before the meeting of the Wage Board.”

The committee pointed out that as far back as April 24, 2000, the APNS while nominating its members on the Wage Board had outlined certain terms and conditions for the conduct of the meetings and proceedings of the Wage Board and had made it clear that in the absence of categoric assurances of the terms and conditions mentioned therein the persons nominated by the APNS would not participate in the proceedings of the Board, and the nominations would he deemed to have been withdrawn.

According to the press release, the following conditions were attached with the nomination of APNS members on the Wage Board:

1. The above persons nominated by the APNS are for appointment as Members of the Wage Award. This appointment does not dispense with the statutory obligation of the Board to issue a notice separately to all the newspaper organisations and provide them with a fair and adequate opportunity to put forward their case.

2. The views expressed by these nominees as Members will not bind the newspaper industry, and the Award will not be based on any such view expressed, but on the basis of the case advanced by the newspaper establishment(s) and the evidence on the record.

3. That it has been our experiment that minutes of the Board meetings are not accurately documented, nor are they duly circulated to the Members. That minutes of all meetings of the Seventh Wage Board will be properly maintained and circulated to the Members within 24 hours of the Board meetings. These minutes and any objection received thereto will be read were as the item on the agenda of the next Board meeting and will be duly confirmed after such amendments or excisions as may be found necessary.

4. That each newspaper establishment must after serving of notice, be allowed full opportunity to
lead evidence, produce documents and examine experts in support of its case and rebut the evidence and cross-examine the witnesses produced by the other side.

5. That the right to counsel is a recognised fundamental right. It must not be decided to the industry of the Board. Each newspaper establishment must, therefore, have the right to engage a lawyer of its choice and be represented by him in the proceedings before the Wage Board.

6. In the past, meetings and proceedings of the Board have been unnecessarily allowed to drag over several months, indeed years, and thereafter the Award has been made to operate retrospectively. The newspaper industry is suffering from a serious financial crunch and cannot afford the luxury of protracted proceedings or the financial strain of a retrospective Award. The Board once constituted should therefore conduct its meetings day to day and the Award must be made within 60 days of the first meeting of the Board.

7. That prior to being singed by the Chairman and publication in the Official Gazette, the Award must be circulated among the Members, who must be allowed to record their concurrence with or dissent from the Award and such concurrences and/or dissents must also be published along with the Award signed by the Chairman.

The committee pointed out that the ministry was later reminded of the above conditions and was requested for an early confirmation to the APNS on the procedural safeguards required by the APNS. Both the letters remained unattended and the APNS through a communication on August 25, 2000 asked the ministry of Labour to place the terms and conditions outlined by the APNS before the chairman Wage Board for consideration and confirmation.

The high-powered committee regretted that instead of responding to the APNS request, the learned chairman proceeded to hold the first meeting of the Wage Board without the representatives of the APNS.

The committee termed the approach of the chairman as biased, partisan and unethical and decided that the APNS as a resort would once again write to the chairman, requesting him to assure within 10 days that the APNS condition would be positively taken up by the Board.

It was further decided that on the response by the chairman, the committee would review the situation and decide whether its members should participate in the proceedings of the Wage Board.

In this respect, the committee flayed the role of the Ministry of Information which failed to pursue the case of the APNS despite several requests and instead tried to pitch the workers against the employers of the newspaper industry so as to maintain its hegemonic role over the consequently weakened Press.

The committee resolved to foil such efforts in the greater interest of a free and viable press in the country. It noted that in the era of market economy, the newspapers industry is the only private sector, which is subjected to regulation of wages of its employees by the government-controlled system under a, “black law.”

Source: The News