The Pakistan Labour Academy (PLA) was launched by FES Pakistan in collaboration with the National Industrial Relations Commission (NIRC) and the Sindh Human Rights Commission (SHRC) on 16th June 2023 followed by a 10-day residential course in which 28 young trade unionists and future labour leaders from all provinces were given the chance to participate in engaging debates and lectures concerning the future development and work of trade unions in Pakistan.
FES Pakistan has been engaged with Pakistan’s trade union movement for more than three decades. Recently, FES has published a mapping of the labour movement in Pakistan in which the achievements and challenges of a diverse and sometimes fragmented trade union movement were highlighted. To further develop the trade union movement, the PLA invited insightful speakers to provide the future labour leaders with the tools to improve their organisations for the benefit of workers’ rights. A combination of technical expertise, practical experience, and remarks on past and future developments in the world of work built the foundation for fruitful cross-sector debates.
To better grasp the present situation of Pakistan’s trade union movement, the PLA started with lectures on the historical events that shaped the workers’ situation. With this background knowledge in mind, the programme continued with the national legislation on workers’ rights. Pakistan has many laws in force that protect workers’ rights. However, their implementation sometimes falls short for a variety of reasons which could and should be tackled by trade unions. This aspect was emphasized by a lecture on the International Labour Organization and the labour conventions that have been ratified by Pakistan.
A recurring issue was how to turn theoretical knowledge into meaningful practice. To bridge this gap, the PLA provided a role-playing exercise in collective bargaining. While many of the participants understood the concept of collective bargaining, only a few had any practical experience with it. Another topic pertaining to trade unions that was addressed in the PLA is the need for strategic communication especially with regard to social media. This need was addressed by another practical exercise focused on court hearings concerning workers' rights.
Apart from the lectures and practical exercises, all participants had the chance – and took advantage of it – to network with one another during the coffee and meal breaks as well as in their free time. Thus, the PLA gave the future generation of trade union leaders an excellent opportunity to start building their own professional networks.
We would like to extend our gratitude toward the lecturers that have provided insightful classes and are looking forward to the next Pakistan Labour Academy.