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Oscar to have a tough time ahead

He will be needing all his political experience and diplomatic skills to deal with issues that rade unions would raise, reports Sutirtho Patranobis.

india Updated: Oct 25, 2006 19:41 IST

Once new labour and employment minister Oscar Fernandes walks into his office, he is likely to need all his political experience and diplomatic skills to deal with issues that trade unions would raise in the months to come.

One of the first issues to be raised is the status of the bill on 'Comprehensive Protection Law for the Unorganised Sector'.

The proposed bill deals with job security, minimum wages and social security of workers in the unorganised sector. Several drafts of it are lying with the ministry.

The first draft was prepared during the United Front government in the mid-90s by CPI's Indrajit Gupta and Chaturanand Mishra.

After the UF government fell, no progress was made on the implementation of the draft.

A second comprehensive draft was made by the second labour commission and submitted to the NDA government. "It's been more than five years. Nothing has happened," All India Trade Union Congress secretary GL Dhar said, adding that the draft was discussed among trade unions and returned to the government after a few unanimous changes were made.

To bring back the focus on the bill, AITUC is organising a march to the Parliament on November 23. It is expected to be a big rally where members of the union from across the country would attend.

Secondly, the standing committee on labour hasn't met for more than a year, and neither has the committee that organises the Indian Labour Congress, which is traditionally attended by the prime minister.

Trade unions are getting restless, saying that the government doesn't seem to be interested in addressing their problems.

Trade unions are also worried about the slapping of section 307 – attempt to murder – of the Indian Penal Code on agitating workers in at least three instances in the last one year, all in Haryana. Trade unions claim that by slapping section 307, any agitation by the workers is being ruthlessly suppressed.

Possibly the first thing Fernandes might have to do is to convene a meeting with representatives of all the major trade unions on the issue of labour law violations. The meeting was to be held on Tuesday and then Wednesday but was postponed because of Eid and then the reshuffle.

But it would have to be held before the next Parliament session since the labour ministry had assured the Lok Sabha in the last session that a meeting on the issue would be held at the earliest.

In August, Manmohan Singh too had assured a trade union delegation that the ministry would look into allegations of labour law violations.

E-mail author:sutirthopatranobis@hindustantimes.com