Coronavirus lockdown | Centre urges unions to convince labour to stay, return to work

Union leaders say Labour Minister gave no assurances on wage payment, relief for workers

Updated - May 07, 2020 02:08 am IST

Published - May 06, 2020 08:21 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Labour and Employment Minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar. File

Labour and Employment Minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar. File

Labour and Employment Minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar on Wednesday urged trade union leaders to convince workers to return to work, even as he skirted the concerns raised by them about the non-payment of wages during the ongoing lockdown, union officials said.

Addressing a meeting via videoconferencing with representatives of central trade unions to discuss labour welfare measures during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, Mr. Gangwar said it was essential to accept the “new normal”. He added that the unions’ suggestions on labour welfare would be taken into account.

Amarjeet Kaur, general secretary of the All-India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), said she was “disappointed” with the meeting.

“None of the issues that we raised, whether it was the violation of the ministry’s advisory to employers to continue paying wages during the lockdown or our demand for universal access to ration and cash transfers to workers, received any response from the minister or any officer,” she said.

Also read: ‘Sending States’ should pay fare of migrant workers, say Railways

Ms. Kaur added that while the unions had demanded that stranded migrant workers should not be charged for their travel on special trains arranged by the government, they were asked by the minister to “convince workers to stay and resume work”.

Saji Narayanan, president of the RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), said he had raised concerns about workers being asked to pay train fare to return home and on the reports of impending ordinances on labour law reforms. He said the Minister had assured that the proposed codification of labour laws would not be done during the COVID-19 crisis and that any train fares paid by workers would be reimbursed if it came to the Ministry’s notice. The BMS had also raised the issue of three States — Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat — recently increasing the permissible working hours in factories to 12 hours from eight, which was against ILO conventions, and demanded that the move be rolled back, Mr. Narayanan said.

Also read: States, Railways final judge on ticket fare for stranded workers, says Supreme Court

The ministry said in a statement that Labour and Employment Secretary Heeralal Samariya had clarified to the union representatives that “no train fare has been taken from the migrant workers”. He added that States were collecting information to form a database of migrant workers.

“The Labour Secretary stated that the focus should now be on reviving the industry and gradually opening of economy, so that there are adequate employment opportunities,” the ministry said. “He requested the representatives of the central trade unions to instil confidence among the workers to resume work wherever possible and assured that the Ministry of Labour and Employment is committed to provide all the help in case of any problems faced by them.”

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.