Millions of workers in the unorganised sector in the country would have to continue to work without a social security cover for some more time. The Unorganised Workers Social Security (UWSS) Bill 2007, which intends to provide pension and health care benefits to the workers, may not be presented this session.
And even if the Bill is presented, argue trade union leaders, it would take time to be implemented because in its present form. The Bill only provides enabling provisions and not specific details about implementation.
The Union Labour Minister Oscar Fernandes, incidentally, had promised to table the Bill in Parliament in the Budget Session.
In fact, a cabinet note on the UWSS Bill was prepared by the Labour Ministry in December, raising expectation that it could be tabled in the Budget Session.
Recently, however, the Bill was put up on the Labour Ministry website, inviting views and comments of stakeholders like workers represented through trade unions, employers, state governments and central ministries like Finance and Law.
Trade unions questioned the reason behind the move because extensive meetings between the stakeholders and the Labour Ministry have already taken precisely to invite comments and views. The Centre for Indian Trade Union (CITU), for example, have already submitted a detailed note on what it would like to be included in the bill.
"Discussions on the bill have been on for five-six years. Four drafts of the bill have been prepared. The present bill has taken inputs from all the earlier drafts. But the Bill that has been put on the website is too general. It does not give any details, for example, on the modalities of payment," said DL Sachdeva of the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC).
He added that the Bill mentions the need to constitute a national fund but does not talk about who would contribute what amount to the fund. Then the problem is that in the unorganised sector – which comprises 93 per cent of India's labour force – it is difficult to identify the employer. "Then there are 'below poverty line workers' who may not be able to contribute much," Sachdeva said.
Dipankar Mukherjee of CITU said that what is needed is a comprehensive legislation on social security for workers in the unorganised sector. "Specific commitments need to be made in the Bill. We have already suggested many amendments," Mukherjee said.