All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) has opposed the merger of retirement fund body EPFO and state health insurer ESIC under the draft Labour Code on Social Security and Welfare mooted by the government, saying the move will be against the interest of workers. “Through our comments in general, we have opposed the proposal of merger of Employees Provident & Miscellaneous Provisions Act and Employees State Insurance Corporation Act as EPF & EPS schemes and ESI scheme functioning under these two Acts have been rendering satisfactory service to their members for the last 60 years,” AITUC said in a letter to the labour secretary.
The union said, “We feel their merger with the Code will be against the interest of workers. The present ceiling of workers under these two schemes and schedule pertaining to coverage of establishments should be dropped so that even a single worker employed gets covered under these two schemes.” It further said that for coverage of unorganised workers with and without identifiable employer, a separate social security organisation be set up for providing social security to them and a token contribution be charged from them while the major part of the contribution should be made by the government.
The AITUC is also opposed to handing over the operation of social security schemes to the state government. The existing 15 Acts on social security will be subsumed in the Code for Social Security and Welfare after its passage by Parliament. It said that the draft Code intends to dissolve all the existing social security organisations in the country and to provide social security benefits for the workers in both the organised and unorganised sector through respective state boards which shall be constituted for the purpose under the Code. It is also proposed to form a National Social Security Council with the Prime Minister as the Chairman, which shall control and regulate all the social security schemes to be implemented in the country.
The Central Board on direction from National Council shall frame schemes and oversee their implementation.
However, the implementation of the schemes shall be through the state level boards which shall have the primary responsibility for providing benefits envisaged under the various social security schemes in the respective states, including registration of employees, non-employees and employers and establishments, collection of contribution, settlement of claims and record keeping, etc. It said that giving unlimited powers to the central government to frame various schemes is a dangerous provision. The main concern of trade unions is the transfer of responsibility to provide the social security benefits from the centrally controlled social security organisations like EPF, EPS and ESI to the respective state boards.
The central trade unions are totally opposed to proposal for outsourcing of management of funds, receiving of contribution, registering of beneficiaries and establishments, payment of benefits and record keeping under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) pattern.