Fair Employers Finish First

Union Minister of Labour & Employment Shri Mallikarjun Khagre has reiterated that the main responsibility of his Ministry is to protect and safeguard the interests of workers in general and those who constitute the poor, deprived and disadvantaged sections of the society, in particular. Addressing EFI National HRM Summit 2011 & CIE 31st Employee Relations Conference on ˜Fair Employers Finish First™ yesterday in Mumbai the Minister said we endeavor to do this with due regard to creating a healthy work environment for higher production and productivity and to develop and coordinate vocational skill training and employment services. He said the UPA Government is fully committed to promoting industrial peace and harmony. But unfortunately, at times when short term interests prevail, the plight of workers suffers.

On the summit theme having issues of Contract Labour, other societal and environmental issues the Minister said only through harmonious relations between employers and employees sharing a common long term vision of growth that our nation can prosper. Whether it is a matter of achieving 9 per cent growth of the economy during the next few years which is also inclusive, or generating a higher rate of employment or enhancing productivity, it is the symbiotic relationship between the employer and the employee that is of foremost importance. Shri Kharge asked whether employers being fair to all employees at the bottom of the pyramid. He said issue of Contract Labour is a very burning one as it is complex, vexatious and potentially explosive. Moreover the way the contract labour is dealt with raises issues of equity, fairness, and is strongly explosive, He said I feel employers should not lose sight of this in their own interest.

Also, Contract labour give flexibility which is needed, but the unfair treatment to this segment of workforce is fought with evil consequence. He requested the employers and the HR professionals present in the summit to be more fair to the contract workers. He said What you save by paying them less is a very small portion of wage cost and a very very small part of overall cost. Paying them more will also add to your productivity and profits.

Shri Kharge said Government™s attention is also focused on promotion of welfare and providing social security to the labour force both in organized and unorganized sectors, in tandem with the process of liberalization.

The Minister said the Labour & Employment Ministry lays an emphasis on the occupational safety and health of workers. The National Policy on Safety, Health and Environment at Work place and the National Policy on HIV / AIDS and the World of Work have been announced. The computerization plan of the Employees™ Provident Fund Organization (EPFO) and ESIC are being implemented. The large scale IT Roll Out Plan will utilize the technology for removing bottlenecks and facilitate employers specially from MSME sector.

He said efforts are on to amend the labour legislations to make them relevant to the present era. A number of amendments have recently been carried out in the central labour laws. Amendments were effected in the Acts namely, the Payment of Wages Act, the Payment of Bonus Act, the Apprentices Act, the Workmen™s Compensation Act, the Maternity Benefit Act, the Payment of Gratuity Act, the Employees™ State Insurance Act, the Plantations Labour Act, and the Industrial Disputes Act. He said Bills to amend the Mines Act, 1952 and the Labour Laws (Exemption from Furnishing Returns and Maintaining Registers by Certain Establishments) Act, 1988 have been introduced in the Rajya Sabha and are with Standing Committee.

On the Ministries schemes Shri Kharge said undertaken several important measures for improving the working conditions and welfare of the working class and reducing the labour laws compliance cost of the employers have been undertaken. For providing social security measures to unorganized sector workers, an Act, namely the Unorganized Workers™ Social Security Act, 2008 has been enacted. A Health Insurance Scheme for the poor titled ˜Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana™ (RSBY) has become operational form 01.04.2008. Under the scheme, all the Below Poverty Line (BPL) families are issued smart cards to facilitate cashless health insurance scheme. More than 2.46 crore smart cards in 25 States and UTs have already been issued providing health insurance cover to more than 9 crore persons. He said the Ministry has also undertaken several other initiatives, including establishment of Labour Welfare Funds for various Welfare Schemes. Furthermore, the National Child Labour Project is being implemented with the aim of eliminating employment of children in hazardous activities.

The Minister also informed that with a view to create a world-class skilled labour force, vocational Skill Training is being given maximum importance. Action has been initiated for the upgradation of ITIs as Centres of Excellence. Under Skill Development Initiatives (SDI) Scheme, short-term training courses based on Modular Employable Skills (MES) framework for skill development for the school drop-outs and existing workers especially in the informal sector have been developed.

Under the National Skill Development Policy has been announced. Action has been initiated for Kaushal Vikas Yojana to set up 1,500 ITIs and 5,000 Skill Development Centres, Skill Development Plan for Youth in 34 Districts affected by Left Wing Extremism (LWE), supplementing infrastructure deficiencies in ITIs in NE states and Sikkim and modernization of all 969 Employment Exchanges in the country under e-governance plan, the Minister added.

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