21 Feb :The two-day 42nd Session of the Indian Labour Conference (ILC), the apex national tripartite body that discusses key issues affecting labour and employment and provides policy perspectives and recommendations, concluded here today. Senior level representatives of the three pillars of the tripartism, Trade Unions, Employers, Associations and Government, participated in the deliberations of the conference.
The conference deliberations focused on four key concerns relating to the world of work, namely, global financial crisis and its impact on employment, contractualisation of labour and issues related to migrant workers, role of social partners in skill development and employability and issues relating to sales promotion employees in India.
In the area of skill development, the ILC listed out a set of pragmatic action points to be pursued by different social partners for ensuring appropriate skill development for employability. It called upon the Government at the Central, State and Local levels, to evolve necessary regulatory framework and enabling environment for facilitating the participation of various stakeholders in skill development endeavours. The Conference emphasized the need for setting up of national qualification framework and quality assurance mechanisms as pre-requisites for long-term and sustainable skill development. It emphasized the urgent need for enunciating and articulating policy perspectives on skill development and for undertaking comprehensive skill deficit mapping in India.
The Conference also highlighted the need for involving the Panchayati Raj Institutions for imparting skill development initiatives. It highlighted the need for the industry to identify the emerging skill competencies and also for setting up of competency standards. It also called for the participation of employers, industries, and trade unions in the affiliation and accreditation processes.
The conference noted that the trade unions can play a vital role in promoting life long learning among the workers. It noted that all the social partners including the civil society organizations in India should be involved in awareness building about skill development plans and activities among the public. It identified the need to evaluate and revisit the Apprentices Act, 1961 in the context of enhancing its functional implementation.
As regards the issue of contractualisation of labour, the ILC recognized the need for preventing the exploitation of contract labour wherever it exists. The conference noted that the provisions relating to the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970 need to be reviewed in the context of the following propositions articulated by the different social partners. The employers noted that in view of the economic recession world wide, the engagement of contract labour is the only legal mechanism available to ensure continued working of the industry and employment of workers. However, appropriate mechanisms may be evolved to ensure that contract labour is not exploited in terms of appropriate wages, working conditions and social security.
The trade unions were of the views that the Act should be amended to provide for absorption of contract employees in regular jobs after prohibition under Section 10(2) and for insertion of provisions for paying same wages and other benefits for same and similar nature of work. The trade unions were also of the view that the Act should be made applicable to all establishments and the license should not given for employment of contract labour in perennial nature of jobs.
The ILC also recommended that a tripartite task force to be constituted to review the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970 as well as the Inter State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979.
The ILC noted that the economic slow down in India has serious and adverse implications for labour and employment in a number of export oriented and labour intensive sectors. The conference opined that a two pronged strategy be put in place to address the adverse impacts in implications arising out of the economic slow down.
The key short term strategies recommended by the Conference include: undertaking quarterly assessment surveys on the effect of economic slow down on employment, stricter implementation of labour laws relating to lay off, retrenchment, closer etc., broad based social security schemes including unemployment insurance for mitigating the uncertainties of workers adversely affected, provision of soft loans to the small and export oriented units, expanding and widening the outreach of the public distribution system and provision of training/re training for alternative employment to those affected by slow down. It also suggested that having an Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme should be given serious thought.
The key long term strategies suggested include: National Minimum Wages to be fixed and enforced statutorily, protecting the interest of Indians working abroad in the context of growing protectionist policies and stimulating domestic demand through appropriate monetary and fiscal polices. It also suggested investment in infrastructure such as power, transport (road, rail and water), redevelopment of ports; affordable urban and rural houses should be increased to generate employment.
With regard to the issue of bringing sales promotion employees under the coverage of the Industrial Disputes Act and extension of Sales Promotion Employees (Conditions of Service) Act, 1976 to scheduled industries other than pharmaceuticals, the ILC noted that there is a pertinent need to discuss these issues in detail prior to arriving at any specific decisions.