Workshop on Unorganised Sector Workers Bill
Date- 3rd April 2006
Time - 10 am to 12 am
Venue - III Bokaro, Jharkhand.
You may have read in the newspapers last week the statement of the Union Labour Minister Shri. K. Chandra Shekhar Rao that,” The unorganised workers’ problems will be addressed through adequate legislation. The government is seized of the matter. We will come to the house with an adequate legislation, most likely before the end of the Budget session”.
You must be aware that there are various Bills on the unorganised sector pending consideration of the Central government. We from the National Campaign Committee for Unorganised Sector Workers (NCC-USW) had submitted a proposal for a Bill to the Speaker of the Lok Sabha for the consideration of the Petitions Committee, after a Rally of 20,000 workers to Parliament on 5th May 2005. We had also submitted a Petition of Unorganised Sector Workers, which bore the signatures of over a million unorganised sector workers.
After that a Draft Bill for Unorganised Sector Workers was proposed by the National Advisory Council for discussion. Subsequently, twin Bills were proposed by the National Commission on Enterprises in Unorganised Sector (NCEIUS) and circulated for comments. The National Centre for Labour (NCL) had also submitted a Bill of its proposal for Unorganised Sector Workers. The Union Labour Ministry has also prepared a Bill, similar to the Bills prepared by it during the NDA government. The Central Trade Unions had jointly submitted a critique of these two Bills along with their suggestions to the Labour Minister and we have also presented a critique of the proposed Bill by NAC and NCEIUS.
On 22nd Nov 2005 Labour Secretary Shri. K.M.Sahani had called a joint meeting at which representatives of NCC-USW, NCL, NAC and NCEIUS were present. He had assured us that a Drafting Committee would be completed which would consider all the proposals
Including the proposals of NCC-USW and a Bill would be finalised within two weeks. But to the best of our knowledge no such Drafts Committee has been formed so far.
On 9-10 December 2005 at the 40th Session of the Indian Labour Conference also it was assured that a Draft Committee would soon finalize the Government Bill. On our enquiring from the DGLW office last week over phone we were told that the report of the Indian Labour Conference (ILC) is under preparation and the proposed “Drafting Committee” will be formed after the finalization of this report. .
No one can be sure that the Labour Ministry will consider and incorporate the suggestions coming from different segments of unorganised sector workers before placing the government bill on unorganised sector workers in Parliament. It appears from the newspapers that the Government is in a hurry to introduce a Bill in Parliament even without ensuring budgetary arrangements and plan support. If a half-baked Government Bill is passed which is lacking in terms of such crucial aspects as regulation of employment, ensuring minimum wages for workers, and a proper mechanism for implementation of the Act, then it will be a great betrayal of 370 million workers and their dependents. Therefore we want a Comprehensive Central Legislation for Unorganised Sector Workers which includes:,
- Regulation of employment and wages, Social Security such as ESI, Pension, Rights over natural resources, Complaints Committee on Sexual Harassment, Minimum Labour Standards.
- Unorganised Sector Workers contribute 65% of GDP therefore at least 3% of State & Central Revenue must be earmarked for our Social Security which should increase by 1/2% to 1% per year till a satisfactory level is achieved.
- To ensure participation of unorganised sector workers from top to bottom the implementation should be by Sectoral Tripartite Boards where workers are not merely beneficiaries but active participants of the implementation process.
Once the Bill is introduced in Parliament, we will hardly get time to persuade Members of Parliament to unitedly support the required amendments. Therefore an intensive campaign is needed in advance to generate strong public opinion in favour of a ‘Model legislation’ as was done by the Construction Workers Campaign from 1985 to 1996. It is important that we mobilise public awareness around important aspects of a really implementable legislation for providing social security and labour welfare for 370 million workers of the unorganised sector who are divided into several segments.
It is important that in addition to trade unions all other forms of organisations, of youth, students and women, are involved in understanding the essential ingredients of a comprehensive legislation so that they can raise the awareness of unorganised sector workers all over the country. It is with this objective that the National Campaign Committee for Unorganised Sector Workers has decided to organise a Workshop on the Unorganised Sector Workers Bill on 3rd April 2006 at Bokaro, Jharkhand along with the Mazdoor Adhikar Mela at which various social organisations will come together. We appeal to all individuals and organisations to participate in this workshop and build consensus on Model Legislation for Unorganised Sector Workers.
(Co-ordinator of NCC-USW)