The 43rd Session of the Indian Labour Conference (ILC), the apex national tripartite body that discusses key issues affecting labour and employment and provides policy perspectives and recommendations, was inaugurated by Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India in New Delhi today. The ILC is being attended by senior level representatives from the three pillars of tripartism, namely, Government, Trade Unions and Employers’ Associations.
The deliberations of the conference, being held during November 23-24, 2010 focuses on three key themes, Global Financial downturn – its impact – job losses – comprehensive package for protection of labour force, etc., Problems of contract labour – social security, wages, etc. and amendments in the contract labour legislations and Employment generation and skill development.
In his inaugural address, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh stressed for continuously working towards a growth process which is not only faster but also inclusive. He emphasized the importance of the issues before the conference and expressed the hope that the deliberations will provide new ideas in the areas related to economic slowdown, contract labour and skills to help the government’s efforts in working towards improving the conditions of workers in all sectors. Responding to the points raised by workers’ representative, Prime Minister assured that the government is taking all measures to control inflation and various wings of government will continue to work assiduously towards solving various problems faced by workers.
In his presidential address, Shri Mallikarjun Kharge, Union Minister of Labour & Employment, dealt at length the need for bringing labour into the centre-stage in economic and social policy making. He reiterated that the progress the nation has achieved, so far is largely attributable, to the self-less and concerted efforts of the labouring poor in the country. The Labour Minister Shri Mallikarjun Kharge also highlighted the commitment of the present government to the cause of working poor and common man (Aam Admi), and referred to various targeted policies and programmes being initiated and implemented in the recent past. He specifically highlighted that the recent labour legislation, the Unorganized Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008 providing social security to all the workers in the unorganized sector, is one of its kind in the whole world. He briefly outlined the innovative schemes for developing demand driven short term training courses based on modular employable skills, and schemes of setting up of 1500 ITIs and 5000 Skill Development Centers in PPP Mode under “Kaushal Vikas Yojna”
While proposing Vote of Thanks, Shri Harish Rawat, Minister of State for Labour & Employment underlined the importance of Indian Labour Conference as a unique platform for tripartite constituents to engage themselves in discussions that aim to better the working conditions of workers, help increase industrial productivity and guide the government in further improving labour laws and welfare schemes.
Following is the text of the Labour Minister Shri Mallikarjun Kharge’s address on the occasion:
“We welcome Hon’ble Prime Minister to the 43rd Session of Indian Labour Conference and are fortunate that we shall proceed today under his guidance. His presence is a strong indication of the importance our UPA Government is giving to labour issues. ILC has popularly been regarded as the ‘Parliament of Labour’. This unique forum provides a platform for Government and social partners to come together and forge a strong partnership, leading to building a strong economy. The stakeholders not only contribute meaningfully but also share the rewards of the nation’s progress.
I want to draw your kind attention to Prime Minister’s Independence Day Speech, 2010, which has given a direction to the country: (I quote) “We are building a new India in which every citizen would have a stake, an India which would be prosperous and in which all citizens would be able to live a life of honour and dignity in an environment of peace and goodwill. An India in which all problems could be solved through democratic means. An India in which the basic rights of every citizen would be protected.” (Unquote)
This is the spirit of the 11th Five Year Plan and Prime Minister while conducting the mid-term appraisal in July 2010, has clearly spelt out inclusiveness as the base of all schemes: (I quote) “Our objective was not just growth, but inclusive growth. This means a growth which would bring tangible benefits to the weaker sections, the SC/ST, minorities and other excluded groups.” (Unquote)
Indian Labour Conference has a proud history. Tripartism in decision making took roots in our country much in advance compared to many other nations.
We have a work force of more than 460 million in our country who toil day and night to keep our country in the frontline of community of nations. Hon’ble Prime Minister has laid great stress on targeting poverty eradication, decent employment and reaching essential services like health and education to all sections of our society. As more than 94% of our workers are in the unorganized sector, more and more stress is being given to launch schemes for them. Our Government accords the highest priority for expanding social security umbrella to all categories of workers. The Unorganized Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008 is an important legislation which will act as a platform for launching more and more social security schemes for ensuring coverage of various sections of workforce.
India has been playing a leading role in protecting the interest of developing countries at International Labour Organization where labour standards are set. We played a major role in drafting of ILO’s Social Justice Declaration, which has a specific provision of not linking trade and labour standards. We made similar contribution in formulation of ILO Global Jobs Pact which aims at job centric growth and protecting the vulnerable. India has been the forerunner in launching innovative employment schemes like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. This scheme has been internationally acclaimed, as it not only guarantees assured employment but it also serves the purpose of social protection. Our initiatives and schemes of Guaranteed Rural Employment, Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana, Mid-day Meal, Right to Education and Right to Information have been much appreciated in the international forum, particularly the G-20 countries at the Labour Ministers’ Conference, held at Washington D.C in April this year.
We have embarked upon the ambitious target given by Hon’ble Prime Minister of training 500 million people by the year 2022. This task demands that we all have to join our hands together to avoid any slippage. To make India the world leader, we have to make our millions productive and ensure some form of social security net to them. These are the two pillars for a sustainable growth model.
Government is going ahead with modernizing and improving the quality of training in ITIs. The most innovative scheme of my Ministry is for developing demand driven short term training courses based on Modular Employable Skills. Our Ministry is in the process of finalizing a scheme of setting up of 1,500 ITIs and 5,000 Skill Development Centres in PPP mode under the Project “Kaushal Vikas Yojana”. In the naxalite affected areas we have proposed a scheme to provide skills to the youth. The overall guidance for skilling the workforce is provided by the Skill Development Council chaired by the Hon’ble Prime Minister himself.
The unique Health Insurance Scheme for the poor the ‘Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana’ (RSBY) is being implemented from 1st April, 2008. 27 States/Union Territories have initiated the process to implement the scheme and 24 States / Union Territories have started issuing cards. About 2 crore cards have been issued so far.
There are 44 Central Labour Laws concerning different aspects of labour such as industrial relations, wages, working conditions, social security etc. Review and amendment of labour laws is continuously carried out by us with a view to safeguard the interest and welfare of our workers and to keep them relevant to our progressive economy. In this process, important amendments have been carried out in the Workmen’s Compensation Act; the Payment of Gratuity Act; the Employees State Insurance Act; the Plantations Labour Act and the Industrial Disputes Act. Amendments are proposed in the Factories Act; the Mines Act; the Minimum Wages Act; the Contract Labour (Regulation & Abolition) Act; the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act; the Apprentices Act; the Employees’ Provident Fund & Miscellaneous Provisions Act; the Inter State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment & Conditions of Service) Act and the Employment Exchanges (Compulsory Notification of Vacancies) Act.
Expressing my sincere gratitude to Hon’ble Prime Minister, I seek his blessings on the discussions of this 43rd ILC. I am sure, the deliberations on the three issues: 1) Global Financial downturn, 2) Problems of contract labour and 3) Employment generation and skill development, will lead to positive outcomes and shall impact policy making in a beneficial way.”