APNS appeals to president to reverse 7th Wage Award -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

APNS appeals to president to reverse 7th Wage Award

KARACHI- An emergent meeting of the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), which comprises the leading newspaper publishing houses of the country, has appealed to the President of Pakistan to reverse a “disastrous pay award” announced by the chairman of the 7th Newspapers’ employees Wage Board and to repeal the Newspapers’ Employees Conditions of Service Act, 1973, which provides the legal basis for such an award.

A press release of the APNS said: “The estimated Rs 200 million pay increase spread over a five-year period has been described by the APNS as “the single largest pay award in terms of volume’ in the history of Pakistan, at a time when the industry is ‘already reeling from the financial impact of the war in neighbouring Afghanistan’.

“The APNS has strongly cautioned the President with respect to ‘a new war brewing on the home front’, due to the creation of a ‘theatre of triangular conflict and confrontation’ that is expected to ensue between government, publishers and the employees as a consequence of this award.

“The APNS has also committed itself to pay ‘far higher an amount…(than) a decent living wage’ for newspaper journalists, but has declared itself to be irrevocably opposed to the creation of a super class of several thousand non-journalist employees who are ‘all ‘guaranteed three times the wages of their private sector counterparts’.”

The Secretary General APNS, Kazi Asad Abid, has released the full text of the resolution passed at an emergent meeting held earlier this week in Islamabad, under the chairmanship of President APNS Hameed Haroon, which is reproduced below:

“With the announcement, a fortnight ago, of a pay award, by the 7th Newspapers’ Employees Wage Board headed by a Federal Government nominee, Justice (retd) Raja Afrasiab Khan, the newspapers in Pakistan have been pushed into a dangerous and unstable stage of crisis one which will inevitably lead to a disastrous conflict within the press itself. The announcement by the Wage Board Chairman of pay increases, which will comprise of out payments of Rs 200 crores by newspapers firms to their employees over a five year period (from 2000-2005) has been described by the publishers of the All Pakistan Newspapers Society as a ‘cruel and vicious joke’ aimed at reducing the chances of a healthy, independent and financially autonomous Pakistani press continuing into the 21st century. This award of which approximately two-thirds will be borne by the top three or four newspapers publishing houses, has come at a time when the country and the industry itself is reeling from the financial impact of the US-led coalition’s war on neighbouring Afghanistan.

“We in the APNS, not only believe that this is the single largest pay award in terms of volume in the 55-year history of Pakistan, but also that it is virtually enormously higher than what the government has doled out to its own employees recently. Even if the industry takes recourse to retrenching large parts of the work-force, the hypothetical 18 months of arrears plus the retrenchment packages under the new increases would wiped out large parts of press in Pakistan and cause a virtual closedown of national newspapers, regional newspapers and periodicals across the country. No part of the national press will remain unaffected. Threatened disruptions by trade unions in all major publishing houses will need to be countered by the publishers suspending publication of their newspapers and periodicals. We feel that the federal government must explain to the newspapers and periodicals. We feel that the federal government must explain to the newspaper reading public at large, why it has chosen to force them to confront the specter of a doubling in the prices of newspapers accompanied by a severe reduction in their content. Has Article 19 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan also fallen victim to the dictates of the new dispensation? Or is all this simply an orchestrated campaign to muzzle the vestiges of a free press in a non-democratic dispensation?”

“We, in the APNS, appeal to President of Pakistan to turn his attention towards a new war brewing on the home front. He must seek to explain to the publishers of Pakistan, why the newspapers of this country are the only segment of the national economy, who are required a s private sector firms to succumb to exorbitant federal government-sponsored pay awards. The publishers in Pakistan also need to be convinced as to why the only major piece of economic legislation from the Z A Bhutto years the Newspapers Employees Conditions of Service Act of 1973 has become the last archaic holdout by which all newspaper employees (inclusive of peons, sweepers, clerks, chowkidars, librarians, accountants and business managers) are all guaranteed three times the wages of their private sector counterparts with the addition of lavish benefits including medical, provident fund, gratuity, and profit sharing. All this at a time when the remnants of Bhutto’s economic legacy including nationalization have been effectively dismantled by six successive governments.”

“We, in the APNS, believe that the constitution, procedures and awards of successive wage board gravitate against the principles of natural justice and the norms of fair play in statecraft. We should also not to be blamed for wondering whether the offending legislation and its sometimes-irrational defence by the courts of law are not a cover for keeping alive the elaborate network of state controls used to muzzle a free press in the fifty-five years of our turbulent history. How can the press be expected to uphold the rights of others, when its financial autonomy, and consequently its ability to express itself are both grossly undermined by absurd and arbitrary wage board awards. We appeal to President General Pervez Musharraf to reverse this disastrous pay award and repeal the offending act before the national press degenerates into a theatre of triangular conflict and confrontation between the government, publishers and employees in these, the turbulent times we live in.

“We fully intend to fight this bad law and the institution of the Wage Board with every moral and legal weapon we have at our disposal. We also intend to ensure that the Pakistani newspaper reader is fully informed as to the consequences of this battle. At the outset we declare that we have no objection to paying journalists who help create news and news comment in the-print media, not only a decent living wage, but far higher an amount than such a wage, with all the attendant benefits and job security that goes with the prestige and moral texture of their position. The journalists are and will always remain the information processing backbone upon which newspapers must and will continue to depend. We are, however, irrevocably opposed to the creation of a super class of several thousand non-journalist employees, who under the present dispensation enjoy a compensation and benefits at many times what salaried employees in some of the most well-paying and productive industries get.”

The meeting was attended by President Hameed Haroon, Senior Vice President Zia Shahid, Vice President Pir Sufaid Shah Hamdard, Secretary General Kazi Asad Abid, Syed Fasih Iqbal (Balochistan Times), Arshad A Zuberi (Business Recorder, Abdul Rashid Ghazi (Business Report), Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman (Jang), Sharif Farooq (Jihad), Mustansar Javed (Mashriq), Mujeeb-ur-Rahman Shami (Pakistan), Khaild Mahmood Shah (Shahra-e-Pakistan), Khushnood Ali Khan (Sahafat), Riaz A Mansoori (The Cricketer) and Mustafa Sadiq (Wifaq).

Source: The News