Labour minister Santosh Gangwar. Photo: HT
Labour minister Santosh Gangwar. Photo: HT

Labour ministry plans reforms to showcase a pro-worker image

Labour ministry is not only trying to benefit workers through a series of welfare measures, but also change its image from anti-worker to pro-worker, say officials

New Delhi: Pension for a greater number of organised sector employees, free healthcare for industrial workers in every district and subdued action on “hire and fire" reforms are some of the measures the Union labour ministry is planning to showcase its worker-friendly face.

The ministry is deliberating how thousands of contractual employees of flagship government schemes may be given better wages after consultation with the ministries concerned.

The ministry is not only trying to benefit workers through a series of welfare measures, but also change its image from anti-worker to pro-worker, four government officials said, requesting anonymity.

The Union labour ministry’s effort to consolidate 44 labour laws will ensure “minimum wages, universal social security cover, improve the working environment and strengthen industrial relations", labour minister Santosh Gangwar told the annual conference of International Labour Organization last week.

The ministry is expected to effect some changes that would bring over five million more employees within the ambit of pensions and provident funds, said Prabhakar Banasure, a central board member of the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO).

Meanwhile, EPFO, through an internal circular dated 8 June, has asked its field offices to ensure faster disbursal of pension. It also said pension calculation or payment should not be delayed under the pretext that clarification is awaited from the head office.

A spokesperson for the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (Esic), which functions under the ministry, said its is expanding its network to all districts to extend healthcare benefits to all industrial workers. As per the plan, in the absence of an Esic-run healthcare facility, such workers may be allowed to avail cashless medical benefits.

“There is political support to what the ministry is doing. If you put together all the initiatives, including a possible change to the number of people factories can retrench without prior government approval under the proposed industrial relation code, you will get a a changed image," said a government official, requesting anonymity.

In the Industrial Relation code, the ministry had proposed that industries be allowed to fire up to 300 workers without prior government approval. The code is now being vetted by a parliamentary panel.

Leaders of the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, a national trade union affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, had met Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah to discuss contentious labour issues earlier this month.

“BMS leaders also discussed anti-worker reforms, which has created resentment among workers. Regarding labour reforms he said any changes in labour laws and reforms will be made only after proper consultation with trade unions. Amit Shah said there will be special efforts to strengthen tripartite mechanism to settle labour issues," BMS president Saji Narayanan C.K. had said.