Benefits accruing from membership with welfare boards were explained to unorganised workers in informal sector during a panel discussion organised recently by Department of Women's Studies, Bharathidasan University, as part of a day-long workshop on ‘Issues and Challenges of Unorganised Sector Workers and State's Support Schemes'.

To the participants representing domestic workers, and contract employees including teachers and support staff in higher educational institutions, Maheswaran, Joint Secretary, Tamil Nadu Unorganized Sector Labourers Union, explained the process of registration free of cost with the welfare boards to become eligible for benefits like insurance scheme, maternity leave, education and marriage loans, and accident benefits up to Rs.1lakh. Age proof certificate, school TC and an endorsement from Village Administrative Officer were required for registration with the unorganised labour welfare boards.

However, there was no provision as yet for registering contract employees in educational institutions with any of the welfare boards, he said.

The workshop was organised to highlight the absence of value for domestic work. Workers were not only denied minimum wages, but also forced to do extra work. Deduction of leave salary when they fall sick was inhuman, Mr. Maheswaran said, observing that domestic workers were unaware of the safeguards they were entitled to through registration with the welfare boards.

His observation was in consonance with a study conducted by the Department of Women's studies on the issues of domestic workers, mostly comprising young girls, destitute women, widows and victims of domestic violence. They work on part-time, full-time and residential basis and their situation of dependence is often exploited by employers, the study states.

According to N. Manimekalai, Director, Department of Women's Studies, domestic labourers, including construction workers, in informal sector were mainly women and the sufferings they undergo do not surface.

The contract system of labour does not ensure any job security to them in accordance with provisions of labour rights. Women are lured into employment under schemes like ‘Sumangali Thittam', ‘Maangalia Thittam' and ‘Thirumagal Thittam' with promise of lump sum payment of Rs. 30,000 after three years of continuous work. However, once they discontinue, the amount agreed upon was denied.

A few participants suggested that the Transport department make it mandatory for educational institutions to spare their buses for transportation of construction labourers to their work spots , as a component of corporate social responsibility.