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LAHORE: Nearly 60 percent strength of the Punjab Prisons Department performs around 15 hours duty in a day and they are being subjected to over 48 hours of unpaid labour in a week on average without any compensation in violation of the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations.

In a summery forwarded to Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar for his approval for enhancement of pay package for the prison staff, Additional Chief Secretary Home Momin Agha deplored that an average working hours of every employee are 96 hours and 31 minutes per week in sheer violation of international labour conventions which recommend any work above 48 hours in a week to be paid as overtime.

The summary, a copy of which is available with Business Recorder, says that there are around 10,587 employees in the Punjab Prisons out of which 6,314 personnel, which constitute 60 percent of the total strength, perform over 15 hours duty in a day in two split shifts. Though these two split shifts have eight hours rest sandwiches, the personnel at the same time have to attend Roll Calls, surprise searches, daily and weekly parades and combat emergencies (on average of two hours). Similarly, Rule 1082 of the Pakistan Prisons Rules (PPR), 1978, further restricts the employees to remain within jail premises to meet any emergency/untoward incident in those remaining six hours of the break, the document points out.

It says that according to recommendations of the WHO, minimum eight hours consecutive sleep, without any disturbance, is necessary for healthy functioning of human body and mind. “However, the split shift employees are supposed to get ready for work shifts to perform their bodily functions like eating, washings and sleeping to meet their socio-familial responsibilities during this break,” it laments.

“Similarly, Rule 1117 of the PPR dictates that no employee will be posted in his own district of domicile. Resultantly, more than 70 percent of official are posted away from their homes and non of the employee is entitled to weekly or Gazetted holidays i.e., they work seven days a week even on Gazetted and local holidays,” document reveals.

The ACS observed in the summary that all the important pillars of the criminal justice system which include police, judiciary, prosecution and home department are well-paid except prisons department which plays an imperative role in dealing and transforming criminals into a “useful organ” of society. He remarked that it is an “insult” to the jail official as the Punjab prisons is the least paid department amongst all organs of the criminal justice system.

The senior officer further highlighted that officials of other departments associated with the criminal justice system not only enjoy local and gazetted holidays but they work not more than 58 hours a week while the prisons official are compelled to work for over 96 hours a week in absence of local and gazetted holidays besides depriving them off the overtime.

“Keeping in view the above-mentioned situation and to fulfil the principals of “natural justice” and international obligations for being signatories of labour conventions, it is imperative that employees of the Punjab Prisons be awarded the following allowances on monthly basis: Prisons Allowance equal to running basic pay, Hardship Allowance equal to 20 dailies of respective pay scales and Jail Administration Allowance at 1.2 times of basic pay for the officers of BS-17 and above,” the ACS requested the chief minister.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020

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