New Delhi: Representatives of the industry, especially from the textiles sector, and trade unions on Friday failed to reach any agreement on crucial issues, including ending labour inspections and amending the Industrial Disputes Act at a meeting organized by the labour ministry.
The industry’s demands, which included extension of working hours, speedier closure of manufacturing units and to be permitted to appoint temporary workers were met with stiff resistance from trade union representatives during the four-hour meeting.
The working group on labour matters was set up under the Prime Minister’s Office last year in order to break ground in improving working conditions and better the labour regime in the country.
The committee comprises representative from industry associations such as the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci), the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry in India, trade unions including the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) and the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) as well as the officers from labour ministry and other ministries such as textiles and commerce.
“The textiles ministry in particular wanted longer working hours and provision for fixed-term (temporary) employment. They argued that the industry had to become more competitive in order to ensure that Bangladesh did not walk away with the export orders. But we have said that we could not agree with these anti-worker proposals,” said Ardhendu Dakshi, secretary, CITU.
Textile secretary A.K. Singh was unavailable for comment.
“In a liberalized world, we should go in for self-certification as it would reduce cumbersome processes and save time. Only when a specific complaintis made against an industrial unit by a trade union, for instance, should the ministry intervene,” said Michael Dias, secretary of the Employer’sAssociation, who represented Ficci at the meeting.
Dias said in seeking extension of working hours, the industry had not demanded that workers do longer hours.
“We have only asked for flexi-working hours so that employees can be given duties at staggered timings more suited to the requirements of a particular unit. Let us not forget that we are competing with China where a worker is told to produce so many pieces of garments every day without any stipulations pertaining to working hours,” he added.
Secretary at the labour ministry Sudha Pillai, confirmed that the industry had demanded that labour inspections be stopped. “However there was no consensus on this proposal. There are several countries in the world where they have stable inspection regimes,” said the labour secretary.
H. Mahadevan, deputy general secretary, AITUC, said: “The textile industry represented by the textiles ministry was pleading for longer working hours, fixed-term employment and flexibility in hiring and firing, citing that they were getting large foreign orders. We did not agree to any of these. We told them that they should implement the existing social security measures, which they are not, and then come to talk about these.”