Asserting the right and dignity of labourers and workmen, Prime Minister Modi inaugurated 46th Indian Labour Conference in New Delhi. The conference was held Monday in the backdrop of strong opposition by trade unions against certain proposed amendments to the existing labour laws.
However, the Prime Minister assured that the “changes” in the labour laws will be made after taking the unions into the confidence.
“Changes in the labour laws will be made with the concurrence of the unions and the consultation process will continue,” PM Modi said.
Underlining the need for encouraging and recognising innovations at every level by the industry as well as the government, he stressed that the industry and trade unions would have to think about ways to improve respect for the workers.
“There is a wrong habit which has crept in, we do not respect our labour enough,” PM Modi said observing that country cannot remain happy if labourers are unhappy.
The Prime Minister also asked industry to promote apprenticeship and make it as part of their corporate social responsibility.
“You (industry) cannot keep the door closed for apprentices for long time,” the PM said.
The government, he said, has taken several steps for the welfare of labour. These include raising minimum pension to Rs 1,000 per month, introduction of social security and pension schemes and online PF accounts. “We are empowering labour through technology,” he added.
Highlighting the social security schemes launched by the government, he said these schemes would also benefit workers in the unorganised sectors. He even asked the trade unions to promote these schemes.
The government has set up a high-level inter-ministerial committee under Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to hold discussions with the unions on issues concerning labour. The committee held its first meeting on Sunday during which host of labour related issues were discussed.
The Prime Minister too had met the leaders of central trade unions and heard their views on economic policy and labour laws. But the meeting was unable to break the ice between trade unions and the Centre, with former asserting that they would go ahead with their September 2 nation-wide strike in support of their 12-point charter of demands.
“They listened to us. They did not tell us anything. We made it very clear that government is moving in a unilateral way… There is no assurance or anything from them. Therefore our stand for strike on September 2 stands. All trade unions are unanimous on this and will remain united,” India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) general secretary Gurudas Dasgupta said.
Dasgupta said trade unions would oppose disinvestment and the government’s move to change labour laws as it would hurt the interest of workers.
(With inputs from the PTI)