Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday launched the Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay Shramev Jayate scheme, under which he dedicated a Shram Suvidha portal, Labour Inspection scheme and Portability through Universal Account Number (UAN) for Employees Provident Fund (EPF) to the nation.

Here are 10 key points from his address at Vigyan Bhawan:

1. Shramev Jayate should have the same power for the development of our nation as that of Satyamev Jayate

2. We have to see labour issues from the eyes of a Shramik. We cannot see it from the eyes of the industrialists.

3. When you use various products, think about the people who worked hard in getting it to you. I am sure the person who labours or the Shram Yogi will become a Rashtra Yogi and a Rashtra Nirmata (Maker of the Nation).

4. If we want to Make in India a success, the most important part is to provide ease of business. For the same, we have to redefine e-governance as easy governance, effective governance and transparent governance.

5. Shramev Jayate will enable portability through Universal Account Number for EPF subscribers from the organised sector.

6. We have heard about Inspector Raj since our childhood and we thought it was for policemen only, till we realised its meaning, which is a lot more than that. We need to encourage self attestation, which will reflect how our country trusts its citizens.

7. We have enough manpower, but it doesn't mean anything if they are not skilled manpower. India must be a key player in providing skilled workforce to the world.

8. These initiatives taken for enhancing ease of compliance, increasing productivity and employability in the country are commendable and I congratulate the (Labour) Ministry and the team for this.

9. We need to change the way we look at the job market. We should not look down upon those who do not have white collar jobs. White collar jobs are considered good. But if a person wearing a coat and pant rings a bell we welcome that person, but what happens when that person is a poor person?

10. We have looked down upon ITIs and its students. We have taken a steps today to change this as they have great potential and should not be ashamed to declare that they have been trained to work hard.

From India, Ahmadabad
"2. We have to see labour issues from the eyes of a Shramik. We cannot see it from the eyes of the industrialists."

This tenet finds support in very few provisions in The Small Factories (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Services) Bill, 2014.

I list such sections here:

15. Prohibition of employment of children and young persons,-

(1) No child shall be employed or permitted to work in any small factory. The onus to establish the age of a person will be on the employer.

17. Responsibility of employer to issue Appointment letters

(Currently the employers evade this obligation)

23. Leave and Holidays

(1) Every worker shall be allowed a weekly holiday with wages. Provided that State Government may fix different days as weekly holidays for different small factories or areas.

(Presently though Factories Act, 1948 provides for weekly holiday, employers evade payment of wage to workers for weekly holidays through recourse to labour outsourcing contract)

23(2) (2) Every worker shall be entitled to seven days‘ casual and seven days sick leave, with wages in every calendar year.

(Currently there is no provision in Factories Act and employers find ways to avoid this obligation through legal loopholes.)

Several provisions looks at issues from the point of view of employers. This need not be because amongst several departments of government only Labour Department has the objective of looking after welfare of the workers. All other Departments have main focus to promote businesses. Therefore the following provisions in the Bill are inconsistent with looking at issues from the point of view of employees. They are:

14. Payment of Bonus: Every employer shall, within a period of six months of the close of accounting year, pay bonus, at the rate of 8.33 percent of the wages earned by the worker during the accounting year.

(The Government arrogates to itself the right to decide quantum of bonus)

22(5) (5) A worker shall be entitled to three paid national holidays in a calendar year, namely, Independence Day, Republic Day and Gandhi Jayanti and five such other festival holidays as may be agreed to between employer and the worker, before the commencement of the year.

(Currently in States like Kerala workers enjoy 13 national and festival holidays.)

18(1) (ii) The total number of hours of work in a shift including the rest interval shall not exceed 10½ in a small factory and in case a factory is entrusted with intermittent nature of work, urgent repairs the spread over shall not exceed 12 hours.

(The very first Convention of ILO adopted in 1919 in the context of long hours of work prevalent then in Factories of industrial economies was to limit the working hours to 8 hours in the day and 48 in the week. India was one of the first countries to promptly ratify this Convention by incorporating the provision in Indian Factories Act, 1911.

If India increases industrial working hours beyond 8 hours a day, India would be undoing the good of the colonial British regime.

In 1935, by Convention No 49, the working hours were reduced to 40-hour week.

An ILO study reveals that “The most recent evidence available (2005) confirms that the 40-hour limit is now the dominant standard for normal hours across the world”

Re Retrenchment

28(1)(b) the worker has been paid, at the time of retrenchment, compensation which shall be equivalent to fifteen days' wages for every completed year of service or any part thereof in excess of six months which is electronically deposited in the account of the worker;

(The right of worker to negotiate severance package is denied.)

Re unfair labour practice

32(1) (b) direct all such persons to cease and desist from such unfair labour practice, and take such affirmative action (including payment of reasonable compensation to the employee or employees affected by the unfair labour practice, or reinstatement of the employee or employees with or without back wages, or the payment of reasonable compensation), as may in the opinion of the Court be necessary to effectuate the policy of the Act;

(No punishment for employer who indulges in unfair labour practice; Cancellation of trade union registration for union if a Union does that. Unequal treatment between employer and union for same offence)

44. Penalty for contravention of provisions

Very light punishment and fine for employer.

45. General penalty for offences in a Small Factory Save as is otherwise expressly provided in this Act, where an employer on being held guilty of contravention of any of the provisions of this Act or any rule made thereunder which has resulted in an accident causing death of an worker, shall be punishable with imprisonment which may extend three months or fine which will not be less than Rupees Fifty Thousand or with both; and in the case of accident resulting in serious bodily injury by a fine which shall not be less than twenty five thousand rupees.

(The value of a workers life is trivially treated)

55. Exemptions: Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, the appropriate Government shall have the power to grant exemption from any provision of this Act to a registered small factory or a group of small factories, by a notification published in the Official Gazette.

(Highly retrograde provision!!)

Where labour reforms must begin

The following four fundamental/human rights conventions adopted by ILO, has not yet been ratified by India though our country is one of the founding members of ILO established in 1919 and is continuing as member of ILO.

1. Freedom of Association and Protection of Right to Organise (Convention No.87 of 1948)

2. Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (Convention No.98 1949)

3. Minimum Age (Convention No.138 1973)

4. Worst forms of Child Labour (Convention No.182 of 1999)

The urgent need for the Government if it cares for the poor and the workers is to ratify these four ILO Conventions, aforesaid.

From India, Ernakulam

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