The proposals, still at a discussion stage, also include periodic wage revisions
Contract workers will get recruited only through staffing agencies, enjoy working conditions similar to the regular workers and benefit from periodic wage revisions if a set of amendments proposed by the labour ministry to the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970 are approved by Parliament.
Stating that the proposals were still “at a discussion stage,”a labour ministry official told FE that the ministry would hold tripartite meetings involving trade unions and employers’ organisations after reaching a consensus among different government departments on the proposals.
Indian Staffing Federation (ISF), the apex body of the flex-staffing agencies in the country has 40 members catering mostly to the organised sector. There are hundreds of such staffing companies in the unorganised sector but a large sections of the contract workers are still not recruited through them. More than 17 lakh contract workers are currently employed in the organised sector while almost all of the 40 crore unorganised sector workers are contract workers.
A senior labour ministry official said that the idea is to encourage the engagement of contract workers primarily through placement agencies. The ministry’s objective is to protect the interests of contract workers by ensuring that they are not exploited in the hands of the employers. These workers would also be brought under the social security net.
However, the ministry is still undecided on whether to allow placement agencies to levy any enrollment fee from the contract workers or at what rate, if allowed. It would also the fees placement agencies can charge on the employers for providing contract workers to an establishment.
ISF president Rituparna Chakraborty said the proposal to employ contract workers through staffing agencies would ensure that the dues of the workers are not misappropriated. However, CITU President A K Padmanabhan said the proposed move would only transform local placement agencies to become corporates without bringing in any good to the contract workers.
The working conditions for a contract worker should be at par with the regular worker, the official said, adding that they should also get the same facilities as safety and security of a workmen, be it regular or on contract-basis, should be of paramount interests and there should not be any compromise. However, salary-wise, the disparity would continue with the contract workers would net get the same as their regular counterparts would pocket.
Central trade unions are likely to oppose this proposal as they had been vociferously demanding “equal pay for equal work” for the contract workers. It was one of the 12-point charter of demands that they had put before the government seeking its response. Not satisfied with government’s assurance of making national floor level minimum wages mandatory for all workers across the country, they gave a nation-wide strike call on September 2, which yielded mixed response.