Cabinet note on change in contract labour law soon

After a spell of industrial unrest due to wide difference in wages of permanent and temporary workers, the labour ministry is preparing a Cabinet note for amending the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act to ensure parity in wages, social benefits and improve enforcement.

The government is also considering amendments in the Minimum Wages Act, Employees' Provident Fund Act, Factories Act and the Building and Other Construction Workers Act to ensure better working conditions for labourers, labour minister Mallikarjun Kharge said at a conference.

In recent years, labour unrest has affected production in several sectors such as automobiles and aviation. In July, labour protest in Maruti Suzuki's Manesar unit turned violent, killing one and injuring close to 100, while strikes in Air India and Kingfisher led to cancellation of flights and increased losses of the carriers.

According to a survey conducted by the Indian Staffing Federation (ISF), almost half of contract workers engaged by reputed HR firms get an average salary of 5,000-10,000 per month, while 34% of them earn Rs 10,000-15,000, and 12% earn over R15,000. While most contract workers earn much more than the government-set minimum wage of R115 per day, the salaries are still lower than that of regular staff in the formal sector and this goes against the spirit of the present law.

Expressing displeasure over the tardy implementation of labour laws, Kharge said ''the huge difference of wages between the regular workers and the contract worker lead to cause of unrest.''

Though the Contract Labour Act mandates that temporary workers should get wages and social security equal to the regular worker for the same kind of work performed, Kharge said ''problems occur when the workers are not paid their dues or exploited in terms of wages, hours of work, etc.''

''A proposal to amend the Contract Labour Act to safeguard the interest of the contract workers in terms of wages and social security is under consideration,'' he said.

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