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‘Cover Unorganised, Migrant Labourers Too’
The Economic Times  |  February 11, 2020

C LManoj New Delhi

The unorganised sector, including contract workers, must be brought under the purview of the bill on the Labour Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Condition of Workers, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour has proposed. It is learnt that the committee has also recommended that inter-state migrant workers be given benefit of the proposed safety-health-working conditions under the code bill. The recommendations, cleared by the committee headed by Bhartruhari Mahtab a few days ago, are expected to be tabled in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday along with a set of dissent notes by some members.


While the original bill said the code will not apply to contract workers of the Centre and state governments, the committee’s proposal to include all unorganised work force under the purview of the code would mean extending the code to an estimated 50 crore unorganised workers, including railway porters, construction workers and security guards who do not come under the memberships/purview of most trade s.TUs work only in the organised sectors and account for only around 8 crore workers. The committee has recommended streamlining and expanding government’s labour department to reach out to the unorganised sectors and bring such workers under the code purview.


The committee is learnt to have also asked the government to find ways to ensure enough rest and safety measures for workers in highly mechanised sectors such as software industry, textile, hospitality and media who may need to work more than eight hours a day due to the nature of their work. In other sectors, the panel is for going by ILO norms that stipulate maximum of eight hours work a day. The bill, seen as a major step towards the government’s labour reforms agenda, was introduced in the Lok Sabha last year and had been referred to the standing committee which held meetings with stakeholders.


The committee has left it to the government to find a way to make distinction between ‘employees’ and ‘workers’, the two categories of workforce in the bill, by ensuring the deserving sections of workers won’t be left out of the benefits of the code. Five members of the committee — Husain Dalwai, Dean Kuriakose (Congress), Elamaram Karim (CPM), K Subbarayan (CPI) and M Shanmugham (DMK) — have given a joint note of dissent in which they, among other things, said the working hours can’t exceed eight hours a day for all sections of workers and instead of categorising as ‘employees’ and ‘workers’ everyone in the workforce should be called ‘workmen’ to safeguard against any of them being excluded from the benefits of the code. The dissent note also said that while the code replaces the Plantation Labour Acts, workers of plantations with a size of less than five acres be excluded from its purview so that such workers continue to get the pre-code benefits.