New Delhi, April 21 (IANS) As India slowly restarts certain businesses to bring the economic churning back into the system, a 7-point recommendation is being made by industry body Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) to the Union Labour Ministry.
One of the most prominent suggestions is extending the Provident Fund contribution date. The industry body has been making this suggestion for a while now and the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) has extended it till May 15.
However, the industry body has now proposed to the Centre to consider the extension of PF contribution from current 30 days to 60 days for each month March, April and May. This, they argued will enable industry to maintain the cash flow.
The recent announcement of PF contribution by the government under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana is requested to be extended to more establishments. In the letter written to Santosh Kumar Gangwar, the Labour Minister of State (Independent charge), the CII has said, “Given the current economic and social conditions, I would request you to consider extending the benefit of the scheme to more establishments by removing the eligibility cap of 90 per cent drawing salary below Rs 15,000. It is suggested that the benefit be applicable for establishments with up to 100 employees for employees drawing wages less than Rs 50,000. This will ensure the benefit of the scheme to more beneficiaries particularly the MSMEs.”
The industry had conveyed its worry about the health of its workers when businesses started resuming on April 20. Now, the MHA guidelines issued for the commencing business operations mandates the Medical Insurance of the workers.
The body argues that exploring the provision of extending medical insurance to each worker through ESIC or Ayushman Bharat will help both employees and the employers and will help to locate and create a database of even daily wage earners.
Meanwhile, M.S. Unnikrishnan, the Chairman of the CII National committee for Industrial relations in his letter to the minister requested to ask state governments to ensure minimum wages to the daily wage earners through funds under social security and welfare schemes; he also highlighted that state governments are required to put the revision of minimum wages on hold “for at least one year”.
A primary concern for both the industry and the government was and continues to remain the dearth of workers as most are migrant workers who have either reached their native places or stuck in midway at government provided camps.
The CII argued, “Migrant workers residing in shelter homes or available locally near the Industrial belts should be mapped, and after clearing the COVID test, they can be deployed to the nearest factories. This will help them get livelihood and ensure the wages in the coming time.” This will also address the concern of inter-state movement of a large number of workers in the present lockdown scenario.
However, the government appears to be bringing the jobs to the workers rather than working the CII-recommended way, at least on this. The thrust on rural construction, agriculture, roads by the labour ministry was to bring the jobs to where the workers mostly are, without their large-scale movement towards urban areas, many of which are COVID-19 hotspots.
With the shutdown , many companies have been cancelling job offers issued with new economic realities or worse, resorting to layoffs. Highlighting this trend, the industry body proposed, “To encourage organizations to retain the job offers and promote fresh employment, government can consider restarting Pradhan Mantri Rozgar Protsahan Yojana.”
Last but not the least, the industry body made a request to consider adjustment of leaves. “As the lockdown has been extended beyond 30 days, we request 15 days Paid Leaves be allowed to be adjusted by the employer. The workers will get full salary for the adjusted 15 days but contribute their 15 days leave and this will help the organisation in retaining the workforce. We request you to issue advisory to address this issue specific for this year as it will be a fair and reasonable,” it wrote. This, they argued, is necessary to deploy a workforce and maintain productivity in the coming months, as the wheels of economy turn gradually.
Starting April 20, industries operating in rural areas, including food processing industries; construction of roads, irrigation projects, buildings and industrial projects in rural areas are being allowed to operate. Manufacturing and other industrial establishments with access control have been permitted in SEZs, industrial estates and industrial townships, but of course after implementation of strict social distancing. Coal, mineral and oil production are also being permitted.
(Anindya Banerjee can be contacted at [email protected])