The State Labour Ministers' Conference held in the Capital over the past two days had two firsts. One, for the first time the Government admitted to the rampant violation of labour laws in the country, by putting it at the head of the list of agendas to be discussed.
Secondly, for the first time, the government on Wednesday had invited central trade unions to attend and participate in the conference. The Union Ministry for Labour and Employment, state labour ministers and unions like CITU, INTUC, AITUC, HMS and BMS attended the meeting.
As for the labour force of the country, though it's not yet time for them breathe a sigh of relief, the issue of preventing labour law violations was at least highlighted at the Conference.
"Some of the laws that are being violated are Payment of Wages Act, Minimum Wages Act, Industrial Disputes Act, Maternity Benefits Act and Bonus Act. These are just a few. The issue being put in the agenda is not enough. A beginning has been made," AITUC's Gurudas Das Gupta said. It was Das Gupta and few other MPs who had initiated a ``calling attention'' motion in Lok Sabha on August 23, 2006 regarding labour law violations.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh too had written to chief ministers on October 15 on the issue of effective enforcement of labour laws.
Union Minister for Labour and Employment, Oscar Fernandes, said on Thursday that since labour is in the concurrent list, both the Central Government and State Governments would have to work together to curb labour law violations. He added that the Central Industrial Relations machinery of the Centre and its state counterparts would look into complaints of violations.
CITU's Tapan Sen said labour laws are being violated every where in the country and the government is turning a blind eye. Sen added that if the government does not take corrective measure soon, it would make way for extremism.
Many among the 20 state labour ministers who attended the meeting also admitted that there were many cases of labour law violations in the country. Among them were the ministers of Bihar, Assam and Haryana, which has seen a number of disputes between employers and trade unions in the recent past.
The two other issues that were part of the agenda were the implementation of the ESIC and the issue of child labour.