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Labour-intensive sectors such as manufacturing, textiles and construction will be hit hard without enough workforce

Labour crunch stalls the Big Reboot

Centre asks trade unions to dissuade migrants from going back home as companies keen to restart businesses complain of worsening labour shortage

The government sought trade unions’ help to dissuade migrant workers, rendered jobless by a nationwide lockdown, from returning to their home towns as businesses complained that the move will worsen the labour shortage and imperil the government’s efforts to restart the economy.

The government sought trade unions’ help to dissuade migrant workers, rendered jobless by a nationwide lockdown, from returning to their home towns as businesses complained that the move will worsen the labour shortage and imperil the government’s efforts to restart the economy.

The labour ministry and national trade unions held a meeting on Wednesday, where there was agreement that the outflow of labour will increase rural unemployment.

The labour ministry and national trade unions held a meeting on Wednesday, where there was agreement that the outflow of labour will increase rural unemployment.

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In addition, some unions also suggested that an incentive mechanism should be explored to keep them at their place of work in cities so that economic activity can be restarted whenever the lockdown is lifted.

Meanwhile, thousands of migrant workers waiting to go back to their home states were forced to stay back in Bengaluru by the police on Wednesday, as the Karnataka government geared up to resume real estate and other economic activities. The decision has led to tension across Bengaluru as workers were unwilling to stay back.

“Going back home will not provide a solution to either workers or industries. We have to be practical. The revival of economy will be beneficial for all," said Virjesh Upadhyay, general secretary of the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), an ally of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

During the meeting, labour secretary Heeralal Samariya said the focus should now be on “reviving industry and gradually opening of economy so that there are adequate employment opportunities". He requested the labour representatives to instil confidence among workers, the ministry said in a separate statement.

“The Union labour secretary said all of us should play a part in reopening of the economy. He sought unions’ support to stop reverse migration as it will hamper the economic revival process whenever the lockdown is lifted completely," added Amarjeet Kaur, general secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), which is linked to the Communist Party of India, or the CPI.

The Union labour ministry’s decision to seek help from trade unions comes after businesses expressed concern that a lack of labour will affect their interests.

Labour-intensive sectors such as manufacturing, textiles, construction and road transport will be hit hard without enough workforce, holding back their revival. Hundreds of thousands of workers are on their way back home after the third phase of lockdown came into force on 4 May, with the Centre allowing inter-state movement of migrants.

Lobby group All India Manufacturing Organization (AIMO) has demanded a 1 trillion stimulus for small and medium-size businesses and adequate supply of workforce. K.E Raghunathan, past president of AIMO, said “post lockdown, over 63% of these businesses fear reverse migration of labour will have a huge impact on their business and here they need government support."

Upadhyay of BMS said if a couple of million migrants return to Bihar, a key source of migrant labour, the state will not be in a position to offer employment. He said Haryana has already started negotiations with workers.

“It has to be a joint effort between trade unions, industry and the government at the centre and states," Upadhyay said.

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