Rajya Sabha today passed Employees Compensation (Amendment) Bill 2016 with a voice vote. The bill enhances the compensation in case of death and occupational injuries and makes it obligatory for the employers to inform their workers about their rights. The Lok Sabha has already passed the bill.
The bill increases the amount of penalty in case of contravention of the provisions of the act from Rs five thousand to Rs fifty thousand which may extend to one lakh rupees.
The bills also increases the threshold amount for agitating the matter in a high court from Rs 300 to Rs 10,000 or higher as notified by the centre.
Labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya said: “It’s a worker friendly bill and it will help more complicated legal issues.”
The passage of the bill saw animated discussion in the Rajya Sabha as it was directly related to workers’ rights.
Initiating the debate, Congress member MV Rajeev Gowda urged the government to increase the threshold limit for going to high court from Rs 10,000 to Rs 1 lakh in case of disputes involving an occupational injury.
He also urged the government to address the issue of migrant workers and provide legal support to poor workers.
Participating in the debate, veteran trade union leader and CPM member Tapan Sen said the government wasn’t aware about the problems faced by the workers at the ground level.
Referring to recent industrial accidents happened in the last three months, Tapan Sen alleged that no compensation was paid to the family members of 21 contract miners who were burried alive in an Eastern Coalfield mine in Godda district of Jharkhand in December last year.
Tapan Sen stated that when trade union leaders visited the accident site in Jharkhand there was no attendance register maintained by the mine contractor.
Tapan Sen said: “In Lalmatia mines, 21 contract workers were burried alive only due to criminal negligence by one of your departments – director general mines safety – as the department – suddenly, in a very surreptitious manner, declared the mine mineable for a Gujarat based miner to whom the mining work was outsourced.”
Tapan Sen also alleged that as per his information 30 dumpers were operating in the open mine in Godda district at the time of collapse and as per a thumb rule there should be at least 60 workers.
Sen blamed the working style of contractors saying that they don’t maintain the attendance register at work places.
He also questioned the number of casualties as it was based on the discovery of bodies from the accident site and not based on the attendance register maintained by the contractor.
He are there only 21 bodies were recovered. And 2 more workers were discovered with serious injuries it means 17 persons are still missing.
Tapan Sen also stated that no compensation was paid in two more accidents involving contract workers engaged in central sector in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra following the industrial accidents.
Sen urged the government to insert a strong enforcement mechanism in the bill.
YSR Congress member V Vijaisai Reddy urged the government to rephrase the article 17 of the bill to ensure that not only the employers inform the workers about their right to compensation but also receive an acknowledgement in writing.
Responding the members concerns, labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya informed the house that article 17A inserted to make it obligatory on the part of employer to inform his employees about his compensations in writing and through electronic means in English, Hindi and also the official language of the area.