The draft codes, in their im­pe­tus on sim­pli­fi­ca­tion, have left out from ex­tend­ing the labour re­forms to sev­eral kinds of un­or­gan­ised work­ers

Geetha, Un­or­gan­ised Work­ers Com­mit­tee

LABOUR ac­tivists and mem­bers from trade unions say the draft So­cial Se­cu­rity Code, re­leased re­cently by the Cen­tre, is pro-cor­po­rate and di­min­ishes the demo­cratic rights of labour­ers and trade unions.

The labour min­istry has de­cided to con­sol­i­date 44 ex­ist­ing Cen­tral labour laws into four labour codes-Wages; So­cial Se­cu­rity (SS), In­dus­trial Re­la­tions (IR) and Oc­cu­pa­tional Safety, Health and Work­ing Con­di­tions (OSHW).

The Cen­tre is keen on push­ing all the labour re­forms be­fore the run up to the gen­eral elec­tions this year. The code on IR

Bill was re­cently sent to the Cab­i­net for con­sid­er­a­tion af­ter which it will be tabled in the Par­lia­ment while the draft code on wages is be­ing vet­ted by a par­lia­men­tary stand­ing com­mit­tee. The two other codes are in var­i­ous stages of con­sul­ta­tion.

The draft codes, in their im­pe­tus on sim­pli­fi­ca­tion, have left out from ex­tend­ing the labour re­forms to sev­eral kinds of un­or­gan­ised work­ers, said R Geetha, south re­gional co­or­di­na­tor of Un­or­gan­ised Work­ers Joint Ac­tion Com­mit­tee. For in­stance, it is un­clear whether the ben­e­fits that un­or­gan­ised work­ers are en­ti­tled to, in­clude do­mes­tic, agri­cul­tural and home-based work­ers, she said.

While the So­cial Se­cu­rity Code re­quires all work­ers to get reg­is­tered, it puts the onus of reg­is­tra­tion on the em­ployer, who may not al­ways be will­ing or in­ter­ested to do so. There is also no pro­vi­sion for penalty on the em­ployer for fail­ure to regis­ter. Cur­rently crores of un­or­gan­ised work­ers, in­clud­ing agri­cul­tural work­ers, are reg­is­tered in Tamil Nadu alone. “Trade unions have been in­stru­men­tal in regis­ter­ing them with the gov­ern­ment. How­ever, as there is al­most no role for unions in the new code, it opens a loop­hole for ex­ploita­tion,” she said adding that the ex­ist­ing sec­toral reg­is­tra­tions will be­come mean­ing­less and nul­lify years of work done by both gov­ern­ment and unions.

While the drafts of t he So­cial Se­cu­rity Code does in­clude un­or­gan­ised sec­tor work­ers, pool­ing them to­gether with or­gan­ised sec­tor work­ers ig­nores the nu­ances of prob­lems spe­cific to the un­or­gan­ised work­ers, said J Jay­alak­sh­manan, State gen­eral sec­re­tary of All In­dia Trade Union Congress (AITUC). “This is be­cause salaries in the un­or­gan­ised sec­tor are gen­er­ally ir­reg­u­lar and there is fre­quent dis­con­tin­u­a­tion of em­ploy­ment,” he said point­ing that the new code may be self-sus­tain­ing in for­mal sec­tors only.

The draft of the codes also al­lows for out­sourc­ing of ad­min­is­tra­tive ma­chin­ery to de­liver the so­cial se­cu­rity ben­e­fits, in­stead of the gov­ern­ment manag­ing them. “It shifts the ac­count­abil­ity to pri­vate play­ers. Es­sen­tially, the labour de­part­ment will be­come an ad­vi­sory body and stop be­ing a reg­u­la­tory or ex­ec­u­tive body,” said G Suku­maran, state sec­re­tary of Cen­tre of In­dian Trade Unions.

He also said there is no clar­ity on whether the Cen­tral and State gov­ern­ments would con­tinue to pay their share of con­tri­bu­tion to the Em­ploy­ees Pen­sion Scheme and ESI, etc.

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