CHENNAI : 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 the 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.