The Sindh government’s July 19 announcement boosting the minimum pay for workers to Rs25,000 per month was halted by the Supreme Court on Monday, but the court agreed to appoint a three-judge panel to hear the case next month.
On a series of appeals filed by a number of petitioners, a two-judge Supreme Court bench comprised of Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Yahya Afridi issued summons to the Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan and Sindh Advocate General Salman Talibuddin.
The petitioners are the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Pakistan Employers Federation, Phoenix Security Service (Pvt) Limited Karachi, Aziz Tabba Foundation Karachi, Gray Marchenzie Restaurants International Limited Karachi, and SRG Service (Pvt) Limited Karachi.
“Ours is a trans-provincial organization and comes within the federal legislative framework with regard to the determination of minimum wages, and the Sindh Minimum Wages Act (SMWA) 2015 is not relevant to us,” one of the organizations said in response to the minimum wage announcement.
Some of the petitioners challenged a Sindh High Court judgment approving the provincial government’s announcement on Oct. 15, while others asked the Supreme Court to intervene in the case, claiming that the high court order was impacting them.
The petitioners – Sindh-based organizations — committed to pay their employees Rs19,000 per month with effect from July 1 this year, according to a five-page decision issued during a Supreme Court hearing on December 7.
Similarly, the “trans-provincial organizations” agreed to pay Rs20,000 per month to their employees starting on the effective date and continuing until the Supreme Court rules.
The petitioners promised that if the Supreme Court affirmed the SHC’s verdict, they would pay the remainder to their workers.
The Supreme Court then put the Sindh government’s announcement on hold till the next hearing.
The petitioners were represented by Abid S. Zuberi, Ayan M. Memon, and others.
They argued that a minimum wage board has been constituted and a process for fixing has been stipulated under section 3 of the SMWA.
The board must first propose a minimum wage and then submit its proposal to the provincial government, according to the laws.
Under Section 6(1)(a) of the SMWA, the government then issues a notification in the Gazette saying whether it agrees or disagrees with the board’s decision. If it disagrees, it sends the case back to the board to be reconsidered.
The petitioners said that the board suggested a monthly minimum pay of Rs19,000, up from Rs17,500.
However, without filing a gazette announcement, the Sindh government increased the pay to Rs25,000 per month.
The petitioners claimed that, in response to the Sindh High Court’s judgement, a gazette notification was issued on November 12th.
The petitioners maintained that, while the provincial government has the authority to bring the case back to the board with comments, it did not have the authority to set the minimum wage.
The Supreme Court, in its judgment, stated that the dispute required a comprehensive investigation and issued letters to the Sindh government’s labor secretary and the Employers Federation of Pakistan, Karachi.
The AGP and the Sindh advocate general were also served notices under Section 27-A of the Code of Civil Procedure 1908, with an order to appear before the supreme court next month before a three-judge panel.