Workers welcome, traders oppose TN Bill on ‘right to sit’

The workers across Tamil Nadu employed in shops and establishments are elated as they will soon get a chair in the shops where they are working. A new Bill introduced by the Tamil Nadu government on the ‘right to sit’ has given the workers a much needed relief.

It was on Monday (September 6) that the Tamil Nadu Minister for Labour Welfare and Skill Development C.V. Ganesan introduced a Bill in the state Assembly to amend the Shops and Establishments Act 1947, making it mandatory for shops and establishments to provide seating arrangements for employees working in shops and commercial establishments.

The Bill stated, “Considering the plight of the employees, the premises of every establishment shall have suitable seating arrangements for all employees so that they may take advantage of any opportunity to sit which may occur in the course of their work and thereby avoid ‘on their toes’ situation through out the working hours.”

While the workers across the state cheered the Bill, the traders organisations and many traders are unhappy on the decision.

Manimekhala, a worker at a textile shop in Santhome, Chennai told IANS, “The Tamil Nadu government bringing out a Bill is a long awaited and cherished moment for people like me who have to stand from morning till evening creating several health and mental issues.”

However, the government bringing such a Bill is not welcomed by many traders who are of the opinion that this would lead to lethargy and lack of interest in work among the employees.

Shanmughasundran, a textile shop owner in the T Nagar, Chennai told IANS, ” We are providing everything for the employees and there is no need for such a Bill. This will lead to several employees turning lethargic and their productivity will come down and I fear that this would affect the whole round performance of the shop.”

The traders as a whole have similar opinion on the Bill and Rajendran. B, a trader of household utensils at Purasawalkam in Chennai told IANS, “Really unfortunate. This will make the workers believe that we have been denying them this right. It will take work away from the employees and they will remain lethargic and out of focus including brooding on their spare time.”

It was Kerala government during the period of Oommen Chandy as Chief Minister and Shibu Baby John as labour minister that an amendment was brought to the Shops and Establishment Act 1964 in Kerala. The state government had then acted after the recommendation of the State Youth Welfare Commission.

Then Chairman of State Youth Welfare Commission, Kerala and Congress leader Adv. R.V. Rajesh, who personally took the initiative for such an amendment told IANS, “I received a complaint from a woman’s organisation in Kozhikode and after that we conducted raids at several shops across the state and found that the situation of the workers was miserable by standing for long hours and it was totally anti-human.

“The youth commission then conducted a workshop at Thiruvananthapuram involving women’s organisations and the labour minister participated. After that it was decided to amend the 1964 Act and a new Act is in place which allows the workers to sit in shops and if not the owner has to pay a hefty fine which was earlier only Rs 100. Now the left government has brought some more amendments and there has been no case of under performance, instead the performance have increased.”