“Sindh Employees Social Security Institution has embarked on a two-year program to fully automate the issuance of workers’ cards, benefits, collection, and coordination with different Directorates. The workers would be issued bio-metric cards and there will be more transparency within the organization.” Dr Nasim ul Gani Sahito, Commissioner SESSI assured the employers at the First Interactive Session organized by Employers Federation of Pakistan.
Mr Sahito, who was accompanied by all Directors of SESSI, added that all SESSI hospitals are being modernized and improved to make them at par with private hospitals. SESSI is also appointing Consultant Doctors through a process of advertisements. Moreover, for the first time, Iddat benefits would be provided to women workers who have to observe the Iddat after death of their husbands.
Mr Sahito agreed with employers that a fundamental change in the attitude of different Directorates and officers of SESSI is required and that SESSI will henceforth act as a facilitator and with minimum regulatory outlook. He added that once the new Governing Body consisting of four employers, four workers and two from government is notified, there would be a new paradigm in SESSI administration. He also agreed that litigation is not desirable and that SESSI is open to the idea of a Self-Assessment Scheme for employers. He lamented that a major cause of disputes and problems is that there is lot of external interference in the activities of SESSI and it has to struggle to maintain autonomy. He also agreed that liaison committees be formed in all seven industrial town associations in Karachi as well town associations in other cities of Sindh.
Earlier, Majyd Aziz, President EFP, in his welcome address said that SESSI was enacted as a workers welfare organization aimed at providing all sickness and related benefits to workers. The employers are the contributors and the workers are the beneficiaries. SESSI was conceived as the supporting arm of business and for ensuring that there is a satisfied workforce. Over the past decades, SESSI started deteriorating mainly due to mismanagement, corruption, and political influence. In fact, SESSI has become an additional liability for employers because of the pathetic condition of its hospitals and thus employers have to incur additional funds on treatment of workers by sending them to private hospitals.
Majyd Aziz criticized the method adopted by Sindh Government after the 18th Amendment which created lot of confusion regarding payment of contributions and which resulted in unnecessary litigation. This litigation continues and hence there is a trust deficit, which is not beneficial to employers, workers, as well as SESSI. He also castigated the SESSI officials who, instead of becoming facilitators, are acting as policemen and harassing employers through threats, irrational calculations of contributions, and intimidation. This has created a wave of unrest among employers.
Majyd Aziz stressed that EFP has always advocated compliance of law and assured SESSI of maximum cooperation in ensuring compliance and in motivating employers to increase their contributions to SESSI. He said that a climate of mutual understanding is essential and that the old practice of audits, inspections, and checking must be rationalized and made facilitative, instead of creating tension and litigation. Moreover, EFP adheres to the theme of zero-tolerance for corruption and it is convincing employers not to resort to giving bribes.
Zaki Ahmed Khan, Vice President of EFP, in his speech emphasized that EFP took the initiative to hold this interactive session with the sole objective of removing the distrust gap between ‘SESSI and employers. He assured all that the previous SESSI Board of Governors was illegal, politically appointed, and unable to take any worthwhile decision and were just rubber stamps. Now, a new Board would be formed that would act as a bridge between SESSI and employers.
Fasihul Karim Siddiqui, Secretary General EFP, who moderated the session, specifically cautioned SESSI officers from resorting to frivolous and unwarranted correspondence. He deplored the threats of issuing warrants of arrests just to browbeat the employers. He advised that before demanding recovery of arrears, there should be justification for determination of arrears. He said that it should now be resolved that employers must give correct data of employees to SESSI. This is their legal and moral responsibility. He desired that employers must be fully oriented with SESSI requirements and offered the services of EFP for organizing such sessions. He appealed to the employers to discourage and not resort to corruption because it is not beneficial for them as well as their workers.
A very lively and informatory interactive question and answer session was then held in which many employers as well as SESSI Directors participated. Valuable suggestions were offered to improve the workings of SESSI and for compliance of all relevant laws.