NEW DELHI: After the labour reforms faced stiff resistance from the trade unions, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said that changes in the laws will be not carried out without building a “consensus” with them.
The 12 central trade unions, the most prominent among them being the AITUC, the CITU, the INTUC and theBMS, registered strong opposition to the proposed amendment to the labour laws and refused to call off their all-India strike scheduled for September 2, during a meeting with the Prime Minister on Sunday. The PM had heard them out, but did not make any commitment. However, while inaugurating the 46th Indian Labour Conference, he said, “The changes to the labour laws will be made with the concurrence of the unions and the consultation process will continue.”
Following Sunday’s meeting, Gurudas Dasgupta of the AITUC had said that the government was not consulting the trade unions while drafting the labour laws and also opposed the government’s disinvestment drive. The INTUC’s Sanjeeva Reddy has accused the government of not setting a minimum wage unlike elsewhere in the world, while the CITU’s Tapan Sen had described the meeting as “inconclusive”.
However, BMS’s V Upadhya, without breaking ranks with the other unions on the all-India strike call, said, “It needs to be appreciated that a Prime Minister is meeting trade unions for first time, it shows he has respect for the labour force.”
The government, meanwhile, has set up a high-level inter-ministerial committee under Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to hold discussions with the unions on issues concerning labour. The committee held its first meeting on Sunday.
Talking about the different interest groups at the Labour Conference on Tuesday, Modi said there was a thin line dividing the interests of the industry and industrialists, government and nation, and labour and labour organisations. Often one talks about saving the industry but ends up protecting the industrialists, he said, adding there was a need to recognise this thin line and adopt a balanced approach to the deal with the issues and change the environment.
The PM also regretted that the number of apprentices in the country was very low and asked the industry to provide more opportunities to them with a view to increase their numbers from three lakh to at least 20 lakh. The number of apprentices in China is two crore, Japan, one crore and Germany, 30 lakh, as against only three lakh in India, he said.
“If we want to move ahead, we need to give opportunities to our youth. Giving opportunities to apprentices is the need of the hour,” Modi said, adding there was a need to focus on people who are unemployed.
Raising the labour issues, BMS president and vice-chair of 46th ILC, B N Rai said that rapid economic growth should not be at the cost of the workers. The government would give certificates to workers having traditional skills as part of the initiative to recognise their importance.
Modi said the country cannot remain happy if labourers were unhappy as they contribute immensely to nation building and businesses cannot run properly in the absence of cordial relations between the workers and the employers. The PM expressed concern over the lack of respect for the workers in Indian society.
He also made a case for simplification of the labour laws which currently are complex and can be interpreted by all stakeholders for their own benefit.