Pvt workers upbeat about social security schemes

Neeraj Bagga

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 20

People working at commercial establishments, factories, private schools, big shops, malls, and other installations are happy that they will be covered under social security schemes like Employees Provident Fund and Employees Pension Scheme from the next year.

However, most of them were unaware of the law. The Union Government has passed the Wage Code Bill, 2019, which also defines all workers, including maids as employees. As per the Bill, any establishment employing 10 persons and above has to pay their employees EPF, EPS and gratuity.

Rajinder, a painter, said he had been painting houses for the past over 20 years but was not covered under any social security scheme. When asked about a law ensuring his minimum wage, he said he never heard of such a law. He said he worked under a contractor for many years but was never offered any scheme.

Raj Kumar, a mason, said he did not hear any of such schemes from his circle. He said he became contractor some years ago as he did not want to pay a 10 per cent commission from his daily wage to the contractor.

Des Raj, a skilled textile worker, said these laws were of no use to them as they were paid depending upon the meter of clothes weaved on power looms. He said the promised minimum wages and eight-hour working time were never implemented.

Focal Point Industries Association Chairman Kamal Dalmia said the law was anti-employer and discouraged entrepreneurs from employing more persons. For instance, an employee can file a criminal complaint against his employer even three years after leaving the firm. Earlier, the moratorium was for six months only.

CL Maheshwari, an advocate, said the Wage Code Bill replaced four labour laws — the Payment of Wages Act, 1936; the Minimum Wages Act, 1948; the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965; and the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976.

He said the code would bring under its ambit even domestic workers but MNREGA workers would not be brought under it.

Amarjit Singh Asal, a labour leader, said these social security benefits were available to different categories of employees under various laws but were never given. Same will be the fate of this law. For instance, a majority of teachers of private schools contrary to the law were not covered under the social welfare schemes.

Moreover, he said it was not yet clear what would be the floor rate. As under the Code on Wages, the minimum wages in the states and the Centre cannot be below the floor rate. He questioned: “What will be the relevance of law if the floor rate is fixed below the prevalent wage.” A labour is getting Rs 400 per day and a mason Rs 500 per day wage.

In the textile sector, which is the second largest employment giving sector after agriculture in the district, workers are paid on a meter basis.

So, all labour unions, except one belonging to the BJP, will go on strike on January 8.

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