Oscar Fernandes is likely to need all his diplomatic skills in dealing with the trade unions in the months to come.
One of the first issues he has to tackle 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. It has gone through several drafts.
The United Front government prepared the first one in the mid-’90s, authored by CPI’s Indrajit Gupta and Chaturanand Mishra. Since the government fell, there was no progress on implementing the draft. The second labour commission made the second comprehensive draft for 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 returned to the government by the trade unions after a few unanimous changes.
The AITUC is trying to bring back focus on the bill by organising a march to Parliament on November 23. Besides this, the standing committee on labour has not met for more than a year. Neither has the committee that organises the Indian Labour Congress, traditionally attended by the Prime Minister. Trade unions are restless, saying the government is not interested in their problems.
They are also worried about section 307 of the Indian Penal Code, under which attempt to murder charges were slapped on agitating workers in Haryana in at least three instances. Trade unions claim the section is an attempt to ruthlessly suppress workers’ agitation.
Fernandes also has to convene a meeting with representatives of all major trade unions on labour law violations soon. The meeting was to be held on Tuesday and then Wednesday but was postponed because of Eid and then the reshuffle. The labour ministry had assured Lok Sabha that it will be done soon. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh too had assured a trade union delegation in August that the ministry would look into the allegations of labour law violations.