Govt to discuss job creation, worker welfare with industry, labour unions

File photo o Union Labour Minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar
Union labour and employment minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar will hold an interaction with trade unions and industry representatives to discuss ways to generate employment and restart economic activities, on the occasion of International Labour Day on May 1.

The interaction, which will take place through video conferencing, will be on four agenda items. The top agenda would be to discuss ways in which the interest of workers and migrant labour can be protected in the view of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19), according to a document reviewed by Business Standard.

Besides this, the government will hold a discussion on “measures to improve the situation of MSME (micro, small and medium enterprises) to enable them to discharge their liabilities under labour laws.”

The industry has complained that the MSME sector is finding it particularly difficult to comply with some of the directions given by the government, especially to pay salaries on time without any deduction even during the lockdown period. Since economic activities are at a halt, industry is finding it difficul to paying wages. It has even sought help from the government to foot the wage bill.

The government has given some relaxation to the industry in filing their returns under the labour laws by extending the last date during the lockdown period. The government has also allowed companies to delay their contribution towards the Employees’ State Insurance schemes. The firms need to submit their contribution in 45 days, instead of 15 days as was required earlier. The industry has been demanding a delay in contribution towards the Employees’ Provident Fund schemes, too, as it comes as a burden on their wage bill.

Other discussions include “measures to generate employment and “measures to be adopted for restarting economic activities”.

During the week ended April 26, the unemployment rate was 21.1 per cent, according to surveys conducted by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE). It was, however, lower than the 26.2 per cent rate recorded in the preceding week.

The government had allowed resumption of economic activities in rural areas and industrial zones falling in regions where the incidence of Covid-19 infections was low. However, the movement of workers from the point of their residence to factories was a major issue flagged by the industry.

On the other hand, the trade unions have raised concerns over lack of payment of wages to workers and mass retrenchment by firms. The unions have also complained of poor facilities and have demanded that workers be allowed to return home through transportation facilities provided by the government. On Wednesday, the Ministry of Home Affairs allowed the inter-state movement of workers through buses for the first time, provided that the states mutually agree to such a move.

Days after the lockdown was enforced on March 25, hundreds of thousands of migrant workers began their journey from cities to their villages on foot. Around 500,000-600,000 workers are estimated to have walked back home, according to official figures. Shelter homes were set up to accommodate them to ensure that they do not leave. There are around 1.04 million workers residing in 26,476 relief camps, the government told the Supreme Court recently.

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