Loss of security | Frontline



Published: June 26, 2013 12:30 IST | Updated: June 25, 2013 14:13 IST

Loss of security

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At the 45th Indian Labour Conference in New Delhi, labour-related issues get more than the usual attention on account of the general elections next year. But the question is whether the government will take earnest action on its recommendations. By T.K. RAJALAKSHMI
THE 45th session of the Indian Labour Conference (ILC), held on May 17 and 18 in New Delhi, was a closely watched event. Like most issues relating to labour, this annual tripartite meeting, ignored by the mass media and treated trivially by the government, attracted a fair share of attention this time for the issues that were flagged in its agenda. The meeting was attended by State Labour Ministers and representatives of central trade union organisations, central organisations of employers, and government departments. While the government listed out its limited achievements in employment generation and pointed out the need for constructive dialogue, trade unions highlighted instances of violation of labour laws, tripartite agreements and promises made at previous ILCs, including the assurance to fix a national floor level minimum wage (NFLMW) and to amend the Contract Labour Act to bring the wages of contract workers on a par with that of permanent workers. The trade unions were rather surprised at the open acknowledgement by none other than Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of the impact of the two-day all-India strike in February this year. But they were critical that the government did little to prevent the strike. Inaugurating the conference, the Prime Minister said that the strike focussed on a number of issues relating to the welfare of the working class and also the people at large. “These include demands on which there can be no disagreement. For example, demands for concrete measures for containing inflation, for generation of employment opportunities, for strict implementation of labour laws, are unexceptionable. There can, however, be differences on the best ways of fulfilling these demands, and we are willing to engage constructively with the trade unions in this regard.” He added that the government had set up a Group of Senior Ministers to go into trade unions’ demands. This cognisance of the strike, which had been criticised by most of the media, industry bodies and sections of the government for having caused a loss to the exchequer, indicated that the government had realised that labour-related issues could not be relegated to the back burner anymore. But there was no indication that the government intended to take up such issues seriously. The trade unions were aware that it was their broad unity and joint actions, cutting across ideological lines, that had forced the scam-tainted United Progressive Alliance government to take cognisance of the tremendous resentment among the working class. The Prime Minister’s exhortation that labour laws be implemented strictly came with a caveat. While he said that the demands raised during the two-day strike were unexceptionable, he added that there could be differences on the best way to fulfil them. Tapan Sen, general secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) and Communist Party of India (Marxist) member of the Rajya Sabha, welcomed the remarks of the Prime Minister, but said strict implementation of labour laws could only happen if there was a shift in the style of governance. “The entire labour law administration and labour relations management has become a kind of public-private partnership [PPP] between the government machinery and corporate employers to promote violation and evasion of labour laws on aspects of minimum wage, working hours, social security, workplace safety, contract work,” Sen pointed out in his address. More than 200 workers and trade union activists of Noida in Uttar Pradesh were in jail since February 20 for having participated in the strike and they had been denied bail for over three months, he said. In a similar situation, 185 workers of the Maruti Suzuki plant at Manesar in Haryana have been languishing in jail for over a year. As many as 500 regular workers and 1,200 contract workers were terminated without any inquiry. There were innumerable examples of

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Increased unionisation of and recent protests by such workers in various government schemes. 2008] five years back. which is a matter of concern for all.4. Yanam in Puducherry. The MSME Ministry. he said. The proposals for setting up 5. to treat people who work for their livelihood as “volunteers”. suppression emanating from the nexus between governments and employers. The items on the agenda for discussion were equally interesting. pointed out the blatant violation of labour laws in the country and the virtual collapse of tripartitism.in/the-nation/loss-of-security/article4840382. C. wages and social security for various categories of workers employed in different Central and State government schemes. small and medium enterprises (MSME) sector. As expected. (The) Manesar model of discontentment is brewing in different parts of the country. the government pointed out through the Prime Minister’s speech that despite the global economic meltdown. What perhaps went unmentioned was that all the various employment schemes were pegged at very low incomes in the majority of cases. The delegates were told that total employment in the organised sector had registered a growth of more than 9 per cent and the number of women employed in the organised sector had registered a growth of about 19 per cent between 2005 and 2011. providing the basic minimum wages to survive. the recommendations of the ILC have not been very satisfactory. he said. Employability should be about creating decent jobs as per the standards set by the ILO. he said.frontline. It is quite disturbing that both violations and violence are increasing around the national capital city of Delhi in areas like Noida.. the National Rural Livelihood Mission. “The long tripartite tradition of our country built up by stalwarts representing all the three partners has been shaken by what is happening in many parts of India. Unions were unanimous in their demand that very small enterprises run by a single person required simplification and codification of laws for easy handling. 20 million additional job opportunities had been created and the unemployment rate had declined from 8. Like his counterpart in the CITU. In fact. The president of the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS). The government has sought to misrepresent the case of the MSMEs which were among the largest employment generators in the country and has now been hit hard by the onslaught of globalisation. in a detailed critique of the agenda note. Likewise.000. and that they were not permanent. especially those dealing with the welfare of scheme-based workers. The Ministry of Labour was forced to moot NFLMW. Saji Narayanan said that the ILC was discussing the conditions of service of about 25 lakh people. the majority of whom are women. he said. apart from Manesar. should be recognised as government employees. and the relaxation of the Contract Labour Act. The ILC could not arrive at any consensus regarding the service conditions. the note said. which was being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation. We are witnessing a breakdown of labour relations. with the Ministries concerned themselves objecting to some crucial recommendations. The quality of employment was clearly not on the agenda of the government. He said that it was the same PPP model in governance that had led to the accumulation of direct tax arrears of Rs.3. Precol in Coimbatore. which is a shame. especially in the light of the Economic Survey’s finding that India had been pushed to the third position in the list of the fastest growing nations. The 45th ILC was significant in that in a long time the voices of the trade unions were heard seriously and for once the employer lobbies remained on the back foot.100 a month instead of at least Rs. The CITU. who are the lifeline of India’s development. The government has also failed to ensure pension and other benefits to workers of the unorganised sector in spite of the passing of such a law [UOWSS Act. (a) service conditions.Loss of security | Frontline http://www. Assam plantations. 89. such as the midday meal scheme. which was quite “heartening”.ece?cs. in its critique.K. while Indonesia had risen to the second position. At least a status report on the implementation of the welfare schemes listed in the Schedule of the Act and the number of beneficiaries as a percentage of the total unorganised workforce should have been there. He remarked that it was a pity the government proposed to pay only Rs. It was ridiculous.3 per cent to 6. wanted “exemption of labour laws”. This is quite unprecedented in the recent history of Indian industry. This was for the first time that the service conditions.5 per cent of workers in MSMEs were working in unregistered entities. where practically no labour laws are implemented. which he said had led to fake claims of training. Government position On its part. etc. (c) labour laws for the micro. The government. Saji Narayanan said. The Prime Minister said that the government was making serious efforts to implement the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act. Anganwadi and other scheme workers. who are mostly ill-paid. minimum wage requirements and social security 2 of 3 6/7/2013 12:59 AM . (b) social security with special reference to Assured Pension with indexation for all workers including those self-employed. He said that the private sector’s share in total domestic investment had actually shrunk since 2009 and yet the government was encouraging it to invest. He said that both the Ministry of Commerce and the MSME Ministry wanted exemption of labour laws in the National Manufacturing Industrial Zones and the small scale sector.000 crores. he emphasised. In this context of labour law violations.000 Skill Development Centres and 27 Advanced Training Institutes to train five crore people in the 12th Five Year Plan period with the help of the private sector came in for criticism. needed to bring out a White Paper on two decades of economic reforms. including ASHAs and persons working in anganwadis and various government schemes. But the government had wrongly presented their case. Blatant violation of labour laws has added fuel to violence and killings of managers in places like Allied Nippon factory. which was less than minimum wages. held that on the issue of employment. They were also bereft of benefits provided to regular employees of the government.. It was no coincidence that it was listed on the agenda. Saji Narayanan.000 a month to midday meal workers.6 per cent between 2004-05 and 2009-10. the CITU pointed out that the Labour Ministry was silent on the implementation of the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act.82. passed by Parliament in 2008. had literally compelled the Labour Ministry and the government to do so.” he said. Four key contemporary issues were flagged namely. “The Union government has failed to pay sufficient pension to workers contributing to PF [Provident Fund] for decades together. the Prime Minister’s speech was resoundingly silent on the quality of employment of the scheme-based workers. Sen cautioned against the deployment of the PPP model in the Skill Development Initiative Scheme under the Modular Employable Skill programme. all talk of social partnership and social dialogue were meaningless. 1. which is what the Tamil Nadu and Puducherry governments had done. many of them get as low as below Rs. the Swarnajayanti Shahri Rozgar Yojana and the Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme. replacement of the labour inspectorate with “selfcompliance”. he said. wages and social security concerns of scheme-based workers were under discussion. It concurred with the BMS’ point of view and observed in its critique of the agenda note that “the broad views of the Ministry of MSME on labour laws as outlined suffer from such ridiculousness and warrants total rejection”. and (d) measures to improve employment and employability.” he said in his address at the inaugural session.

made several bold recommendations such as reiterating the recommendations on social security made at the 44th session. 2013 12:59:25 AM | http://www. It remains to be seen whether the recommendations of the 45th session of the ILC and those of previous sessions will be taken forward in earnest by the government at least for electoral reasons if not for the welfare of the working class. Printable version | Jul 7. including the Ministry of Women and Child Development.frontline. The demand of the trade unions that they be treated as government employees rather than as volunteers and honorary workers was also not acceded to. The representatives from the Ministries concerned. requirements of the workers belonging to the anganwadi. including one recommendation on pension and a one-time payment of gratuity to these workers. midday meal. Apart from universal social security coverage for the entire working population of the country. ASHA. did not agree with the recommendations of the sub-committee.Loss of security | Frontline http://www..ece?cs. Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) and other schemes. an old demand of trade unions. the committee also suggested that the current government spending on social security schemes as a percentage of GDP be enhanced as it was very low compared with that in other countries..in/the-nation/loss-of-security/article4840382.ece © Frontline 3 of 3 6/7/2013 12:59 AM .in/the-nation/loss-of-security/article4840382. The committee on social security with assured pension with indexation for workers.frontline. including those self-employed.

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