A parliamentary committee has recommended the government amend laws to ensure contract workers get equal wages and benefits at par with regular employees. Representatives from workers’ unions approve of these recommendations but are sceptical if they will change things on the ground on account of the government already considering amendments contrary to the parliamentary committee’s recommendations.
The Parliamentary Committee on Petitions, chaired by BJP MP Bhagat Singh Koshyari, has made three recommendations. The Committee has said that there was an “urgent need” to amend the Contract Labour Act to protect the “rights of a huge work force” of contract workers. The amendments, it said, should protect their right in terms of “wages, hours of work, holidays and other conditions of service similar to that of regular employees”.
Stressing that the country needs “urgent redressal of grievances” of contract workers, the committee added that a “workable formulation” needs to be made to make contractors and principal employers adhere to provisions of the Act. It has, therefore, recommended that “self-contained proposals” in the form of a Bill be introduced by the government in the Budget Session.
The committee has also recommended all labour laws be brought under “one unified piece of legislation”. The law should have provisions for “Labour-Management relations, wages, social security, safety at workplace, welfare provisions, terms and condition of employment, recognition of trade unions, provisions regarding collective bargaining, and above all, enforcement of International Labour Standards,” the recommendations note. The committee has asked that it be informed about the outcome within three months.
Tapan Sen, General Secretary of the CPM affiliated Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), agreed with the recommendations when asked for comments, but told YKA that the government’s current proposals for changing the Contract Labour Act are “totally violative of the committee’s recommendations” and in fact “opposite” in spirit to what the parliamentary committee has proposed.
“Petitions Committee has made certain recommendations. Petitions Committee is chaired by a BJP leader but the BJP Prime Minister is pushing through reforms in just the opposite direction,” he told YKA.
Sen referred to the amendments brought by the Rajasthan government, along the lines of which the central government too proposes to amend labour laws. The Rajasthan government had increased the number of workers that an establishment or contractor needs to employ for the Contract Labour Act to apply to them from 20 to 50 in 2014. This was being done, Sen said, to push more and more contract workers out of the purview of the Act.
Brij Nath Rai, President of the BJP-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), told YKA that “some part” of the recommendations were based on their suggestions but that they would wait for the bill to comment. “This Act has been discussed with the trade unions long ago. We have made our contribution on how to deal with it. Now they are bringing their bill based on our discussion. So let us see the bill. They are asking our comment as a stakeholder. Then we will see and will give our comments,” he said.
“We have three concrete suggestions: equal pay for equal work, the time period (for implementation of suggestions) should be decided, and the contract worker should be regularised,” he added.
The Committee on Petitions presented the report in the Lok Sabha on December 9. The Committee took up the issue of contract workers after a representation was made by Sapan Kumar Ghosal, General Secretary of Jharkhand Asangatith Mazdoor Union, in July 2014.