Thursday, September 27, 2012

43rd Session of State Labour Ministers Conference begins with A Call to Ensure Harmonious Industrial Relations
The 43rd session of the State Labour Ministers’ Conference today began here with a call to ensure harmonious industrial relations climate for the foundation of country’s economic growth and well-being of the workers. Thrust was given for the addressing the concerns of the stake holders, proper implementation of Labour Laws and provide an atmosphere where entrepreneurs should be keen to invest and workers should work with dedication. Inaugurating the session Union Labour & Employment Minister Shri Mallikarjuna Kharge said his ministry has drafted a National Employment Policy. The basic objective is to create more productive, sustainable and decent employment opportunities. We are also creating a strong labour market information system. The various schemes under the National Skill Mission are being implemented across states through various Central and State ministries.

Following is the text of Labour Minsters speech:

“I extend my warm greetings to the Hon’ble Ministers of various States and other delegates attending this 43rd Session of State Labour Ministers’ Conference. As you know that Labour is a concurrent subject in our Constitution, both Central and State Governments have an important role in ensuring the effective implementation of the existing statutes. It is also necessary that we bring forth progressive legislations to meet the aspirations of the working class.

The labour legislations broadly cover the four areas namely – Industrial Relations, Wages, Working Conditions and Social Security. The primary purpose of various labour legislations is to protect the working class from exploitation. They also provide healthy working conditions and enable them to make a decent and dignified living.

Our country is an emerging economy and the large informal sector poses a big challenge. 94% of our work force is in the informal sector where implementation of labour laws is difficult. Ensuring that the benefits of various government schemes reach this sector is also a huge task. In view of the enormity of our responsibility, both central and state governments have to join hands and work very closely. We also have to take along all the other stake-holders.

Government of India’s Twelfth Five Year Plan has the vision of ‘Faster, Sustainable and More Inclusive Growth’. Moreover in today’s globalized world we have to be very responsive to the needs of the labour market. Every year more than 10 million persons join our workforce. We have to successfully implement all our skill training schemes to harness our demographic dividend. This would also enable us to maintain a high rate of economic growth. A country’s economy can’t progress unless we have a harmonious industrial relations climate. Entrepreneurs should be keen to invest and workers should work with dedication.

We have made significant progress in elimination of Child Labour. However we still have to cover some distance for its complete elimination. This issue is one of the most serious problems facing our society. It also attracts unwarranted international attention. Developed economies use this subject to block our exports by giving it the form of a non-tariff barrier.

For safeguarding the interests of the workers, the concept of minimum wages and equality of wages is enshrined in our Constitution. According to Article 39 of our Constitution - “the citizens, men and women equally, have the right to an adequate means to livelihood”. Article 43 states that – “the state shall endeavour to secure, by suitable legislation or economic organization or in any other way, to all workers, agricultural, industrial or otherwise, work, a living wage, conditions of work ensuring a decent standard of life and full enjoyment of leisure and social and cultural opportunities”. 

The prime aim of Minimum Wages Act, 1948 is to safeguard the interests of the workers engaged in the unorganized sector by providing a decent wage. The Act presently covers 45 scheduled employments in the Central sphere and 1679 scheduled employments in the State sphere. We are constantly trying for bringing down regional disparities in minimum wages. Our endeavour is to ensure better enforcement of various provisions of the Minimum Wages Act.

The proposed National Floor Level Minimum Wage is expected to reduce inter-state and inter-employment disparity. It is being indexed from time to time on the basis of the consumer price index. Presently it is fixed at Rs. 115/- with effect from 1st April, 2011. The centre has also introduced Variable Dearness Allowance (VDA) since 1989 to neutralize the effect of inflation on wages. So far 24 states/UTs have adopted the VDA concept. We are pursuing the matter with the remaining states.

A sound industrial climate lays down the foundation of country’s economic growth and well-being of the workers. One of the primary functions of Ministry of Labour & Employment is to maintain industrial harmony. The conciliation and enforcement machinery plays an important role in achieving this aim. State Governments are the implementing agencies for many of the labour laws. Our ministry is responsive to the concerns of our stakeholders. We believe in taking proactive measures in consultation with State Governments and social partners.

I have been regularly communicating with State Governments to stress upon the need of effective implementation of labour laws. Legislation related to minimum wages, contract labour, industrial disputes and ‘working conditions in the factories’ affects the life of the working class in a very significant way. These laws touch upon the lives of the most deprived and marginal classes of the society.

Enforcement of the Labour Laws has to be followed strictly. Failure in this area has led to the recent flaring of incidents like Maruti Suzuki in Haryana, Regency Ceramics, Yanam, Puducherry and Neyveli Lignite Limited, Tamil Nadu. Respect for industrial democracy and aiming towards high industrial growth has to go hand in hand. Our trade union movement has a proud legacy and entrepreneurs of our country are respected the world over. The need is to ensure a healthy social dialogue so that all the creative energy is channelized for the progress of our nation. Employers should not turn a blind eye towards the labour statutes. At the same time the workers should refrain from taking law into their own hands. Our employers and workers should conduct themselves in such a way that they earn the respect of the whole world.

In the coming years, our country’s growth will to a large extent depend on the success of our skill training programmes. A significant portion of the world’s total youth population lives in India. The challenge of equipping millions of our youth, who are entering the labour market every year with professional skills, is a huge task. Government of India has launched the National Skill Development Policy. Skill development is a major national priority especially for the youth. A Coordinated Action Plan for skill development has been framed. Our ministry has been given a target of skilling 10 crore persons in the next ten years. This can be possible only with your fullest co-operation.

Ministry of Labour and Employment has drafted a National Employment Policy. The basic objective is to create more productive, sustainable and decent employment opportunities. We are also creating a strong labour market information system. The various schemes under the National Skill Mission are being implemented across states through various Central and State ministries. Government of India has taken a number of steps for ensuring quality employment through appropriate skill development. However, in the skill front there are various challenges that need to be tackled in the new economic scenario as our skill-base is still low compared to the developed countries.

Government has promised Rs. 700/- crore under MES but two states and two Union Territories have not even sent their annual action plan. Similarly, under the World Bank project for modernization of ITIs, Rs. 1103 crore has been released but only Rs. 902 crore has been utilized. Project is closing in December, 2012 but 14 states are lagging behind. There are about 7 lakh ITI certificates pending for issue as a result of which candidates are finding it difficult to get jobs.

I would like to appeal to all the Labour and Employment Ministers to look into these issues, utilize amount in time and send the details of candidates so that certificates could be issued. I will also request State Governments to send information about pass out candidates to up-date our records.

Government of India has adopted a multi-pronged strategy for eradication of child labour. Child Labour is basically a socio-economic problem. Right to Education Act, 2009 and its alignment with the National Child Labour Project will significantly reduce the problem of child labour. It will also provide basic amenities like education, nutrition, health and security to our children.

The continuation of National Child Labour Project Scheme during 12th plan with certain modifications proves its effectiveness. We invite your suggestions to make the NCLP Scheme more effective. The Union Cabinet has also approved the proposal of Ministry of Labour & Employment for amending the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986. These amendments are in line with the provisions of ILO Conventions No. 182 concerning Worst Forms of Labour and No. 138 concerning Minimum Age.

Before I conclude I would like to remind all, that we are committed to create a healthy work environment. Industrial climate should be conducive to achieving a high rate of economic growth. It should also give the highest regard to protecting the interests of the working class. Our country’s economic progress and social peace will depend on our responsiveness to the needs and rightful aspirations of the working class.

The challenge remains huge. Achieving it will require single minded dedication along with a lot of hard work. Hon’ble Ministers present in this Conference and all the delegates have wide experience in the area of labour. I am quite optimistic that if we pool together our strengths, we will be able to bring our country in the forefront of the community of nations.” 

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