The Netherlands, ILO for Strengthening Labour Inspection Systems in Pakistan

wcms_379454Ambassador of the Netherlands to the United Nations, H.E. Roderick van Schreven and ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, have signed two collaboration agreements in support of the ILO’s work in Pakistan and on global supply chains, here at Geneva. According to a press statement, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Netherlands have embarked on a unique partnership aimed at supporting the Government of Pakistan and workers’ and employers’ organizations in developing measures to revitalise the country’s labour inspection machinery.

The partnership will focus on strengthening institutional mechanisms for effective labour inspection; enhancing human resource capacities in the country in a bid to enforce the law on labour inspections – based on a needs assessment – and partnering with the private sector to promote international labour standards and ensure their compliance by enterprises. This new project can be seen as an important component of the ILO’s overall efforts to support the Government of Pakistan in their compliance with international labour standards.

Labour inspection is a critical factor in the growth of sustainable enterprises in Pakistan, particularly in the context of the ‘Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) Plus’ status, making Pakistani products have duty free access to the European market, which came into force in January 2014. Although Pakistan ratified the Labour Inspection Convention, 1947 (No. 81) in 1953, there has been a strong call among stakeholders to strengthen the effectiveness of labour inspection. There is also a need to ensure the enforcement of legal provisions in the context of the delegation of legislative powers to provinces and jurisdiction in labour-related matters, which has also been expressed by the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR) .

Following the disastrous 2012 factory fire in Ali Enterprises in Karachi , where 260 women and men lost their lives and more than 1,000 workers lost their jobs, effective labour inspection that looks at occupational safety and health (OSH) in Pakistan is needed. This tragedy, however, saw the Government, workers and employers come together in the development of the Joint Action Plan on OSH for the Sindh Province, which has been implemented since 2013. The Government of Pakistan now aims to refine this action plan and replicate it in other provinces.

The ILO’s partnership with the Netherlands in Pakistan has picked up the pace over the past twelve months. Notable joint endeavours include a roundtable meeting, hosted by the ILO, where Ms Lilianne Ploumen, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Netherlands stressed the need for better working conditions in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Pakistan’s textile industry as a prerequisite for enhanced export to the European Union. This, also as the textile industry is the country’s second largest economic sector after agriculture. The roundtable event was followed by training on occupational safety and health (OSH), which saw over 100 labour inspectors trained in key OSH concepts.

Recently, the ILO, the Netherlands and the International Finance Cooperation (IFC) have joined forces in the creation of the first Buyers’ Forum in Pakistan – bringing together large international brands such as H&M, Li& Fung, V&D, Gap, Inc., India, Hema and C&A. Since December 2014, three meetings have taken place and the Buyers’ Forum has reaffirmed its commitment to better work and environmental practices Pakistan’s textile sector. This has been complemented by an assessment of the status of compliance and existing good practices in the sector.

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