The Committee appointed by the government to study the functioning of workers welfare fund boards has recommended merger of ten welfare fund boards and schemes with other welfare fund boards.

The Committee suggested that the Kerala Artisans and Skilled Workers Welfare Scheme, Kerala Barber and Beauticians Welfare Scheme, Kerala Laundry Workers Welfare Scheme, Kerala Small Plantation Workers Welfare Fund Board and Kerala Etta, Kattuvally and Pandanus Leaf Workers Welfare Fund Board should be merged with Kerala Workers Welfare Fund Board. Similarly, the welfare schemes for autorishaw and automobile workshop workers should be brought under the Kerala Motor Transport Workers Welfare Fund Board.

It also suggested that the Kerala Beedi and Cigar Workers Welfare Fund Board should be merged with the Kerala Handloom Workers Welfare Fund Board. The Kerala Jewellery Workers Welfare Fund Board and the Kerala Headload Workers (Attached) Welfare Fund should be brought under the Kerala Shops and Commercial Establishment Workers’ Welfare Fund. The Kerala Headload Workers Welfare Fund Board should have its independent existence.

Former Labour Commissioner S. Sreenivasan, who chaired the committee, told the media here on Wednesday that the Committee had not recommended discontinuation of any of the welfare fund boards. It had recommended that the minimum contribution of employers and workers to the welfare funds should be Rs. 10 a month. In case of beedi workers, it could be Rs. 5 against current rate of Rs. 3 a month. The contribution of government too should be revised.

Steps should be taken to collect arrears in building cess and two gazetted officers should be deputed to speed up the assessment. The reserve funds of the boards should be deposited in National Savings schemes and their bank deposits should be exempted from income tax on interest. Auditing of accounts by the Local Fund Accounts Department should be discontinued and the funds freed from expenses in that regard. Local self governments should insist on production of ‘no dues certificates’ on contributions to welfare funds while renewing licences of employers.

The Committee had also called for revision of minimum benefits under the welfare fund schemes. The maternity benefit should be a minimum of Rs. 2500 for workers not covered under the ESI Scheme. Steps should be taken to prevent bogus and duplicate memberships while the trade unions should encourage all genuine workers to join the schemes. Workers with ESI cover should also be enlisted in the schemes. The boards should have their own staff. The number of directors should be reduced.

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