The three-day hunger fast at Sriperumbur by V. Prakash, advocate and honorary president of the United Labour Federation (ULF), came to an end on Sunday with workers, who are members of the Federation pledging to take the message to a larger number of workers.
“We are beginning a 90-day campaign by which time we hope to cover every industrial estate in the State,” said Rakhi Sehgal of the National Forum Against Contract Work, and official spokesperson of the ULF.
The fast was held to demand the constitution of a task force headed by a retired High Court Judge with labour representatives participating, to suggest ways to improve the work conditions of workers in industrial units across the State.
The protest also emphasised the need for amendments to the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970. “Section 12 of the Act talks about wages. We want wages of the contract workers to be at least 75 per cent of the lowest wages paid to a permanent worker in that company. For similar jobs, they should be paid the same amount,” she said.
Mr. Prakash said that licenses for employing contract labourers should not be issued if a company was going to employ such workers on any job for more than two years. “This proves that the job is of a perennial nature. There are many large companies where tenders are floated once in three years and if the contractor does not win the bid, the contract workers are rendered jobless. This situation has to change,” he said.
Ms. Sehgal said that the ULF was demanding the introduction of a new sub-section in Section 21 of the Act. “The principle employer should take complete responsibility for statutory benefits including PF, ESI, gratuity, and retrenchment compensation under the Industrial Disputes Act if the company or its subsidiaries have been employing contract labourers for more than a year,” she said.