Banking is a respected, rich and profitable sector of Pakistan
Corporate compliance is the way a company ensures that it complies with all the laws and regulations that apply to its business. The Board of Directors formally confirms the compliance status of the company at least once every year. While all this sounds so appropriate, logical and flawless one must take this whole subject with a pinch of salt.
As an apolitical group of concerned citizens, ‘Justice for the Voiceless’, working towards elimination of human rights violations, illegal wages and cruel working conditions of Sanitation Workers, Security Guards, Railway Coolies and Coal Miners, we every day run into mind-boggling examples of systemic corporate non-compliance. We shall describe in this article, how just one segment of our corporate sector indulges in labour law related violations.
Banking is a respected, rich and profitable sector of Pakistan. As per the latest available financial statements, most Bank Chief Executives receive a salary of the order of Rs2 crore per month. One has nothing against the remuneration of any individual, except to highlight the stark discrimination and exploitation that even the richest corporate sectors happily indulge in, when it comes to the downtrodden. One can imagine that it is impossible for a Bank Chief Executive to arrive at his office every day, without coming across or noticing a set of private security guards, who prominently guard the entrance of each bank. Surely, because neither are these individuals invisible nor do they go into a sleep mode as soon as they see the Bank Chief Executive.
With the data from our regular salary surveys of private security guards of numerous banks (typically hired through 3rd party security companies), one can say with confidence that they receive an average salary of Rs25,000 to Rs27,000 — while in some cases it is as low as Rs18,000 per month. In 90% of the cases, they work on a 12-hour shift for 30 days a month. It is normal for a security guard to find his children asleep when he leaves home for duty and also when he returns from work. It is thus a blatantly and bitterly cruel, exploitative and illegal arrangement which, like the proverbial ‘emperor’s new clothes’, is known to all but pointed out by nobody.
There are numerous Government Organisations, Minimum Wage Boards, Human Rights Commissions, Labour Department, Social Security and Old Age Benefits Institutions which, despite knowing full well the plight of private security guards, will not act on their own to end this poverty-induced violence.
To put the subject in perspective, one only needs to read the latest Sindh Government Notification No.L-11-13-3/2016 dated 28 April 2023. It is significant as it explains three basic rules relating to security guards. Firstly, it re-classifies the Security Guards from unskilled to the category of Semi-Skilled Labour. Secondly, it defines that the minimum wage of a security guard who works for 8 hours cannot be less than Rs26,000 per month and thirdly it defines that every worker must receive 4 weekly holidays in a month. Thus a security guard working for 12 hours each day, must receive Rs52,000 (26K for first 8 hours and 26K for the next 4 hours of overtime @ twice the rate), along with 4 holidays each month. Sadly not a single private security guard in the esteemed banking industry receives these legal emoluments.
One expected the well-informed and well-heeled banking sector to appreciate its responsibility for legal compliance as a Principal Employer, without shifting the onus on to the contractors. This aspect of compliance is globally ensured by the Principal Employers through contracts as well as direct monitoring. It is also well explained in numerous High Court decisions in Pakistan. It is thus absolutely critical that these grave human rights and labour law violations be immediately brought to an end. Private security guards be either paid Rs26,000 for performing an 8-hour duty or Rs52,000 for a 12-hour shift plus 4 holidays per month. If not, our banks stand hugely complicit and must be held accountable as the real offenders of this violation of law, ethics and humanity.