Unions protest states' move to cut staff pay, curb migrant workers' movement

New Delhi, May 6 (PTI) Trade unions on Wednesday strongly protested against the decision of some state governments to cut their employees' pay, increase working hours and delay movement of migrant workers who wish to return home amid the lockdown.

As many as 12 central trade unions raised various issues during a webinar with Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar and senior officials of the ministry on Wednesday.

The unions demanded effective implementation of Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act, 1979 and also pitched for bringing a national policy for migrant workers.  In a statement issued after the webinar, BJP-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) said it has demanded from the 'government to immediately start creating a National Register of Migrant Workers for creating data base, proper identity, portability, labour law protection, social security benefits etc.' The union told the minister that many migrant workers returning to their homes are facing various problems, both in the host state as well as their home state.

The BMS said the Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act, 1979 is grossly violated when train fare is collected from workers, and contractors/principal employers do not provide them with wages or food in the labour camps.  The BMS demanded immediate formulation of a national policy for migrant workers.

'Compulsory methods should not be adopted to dissuade migrant workers going to their home (reverse migration) to join their families,' the union said.

It suggested the workers should be provided incentives to come back to the host states, like cash incentives, electronic passes and free train tickets.

BMS along with other unions also opposed the dearness allowance (DA) freeze by the central government.

The union said, 'Huge salary cuts are made by nearly 14 state Governments and DA freeze by the Central Govt. No guarantee is being given whether the amount so withheld will be returned or when it will be returned.' The labour ministry should write to states to immediately stop such massive salary cuts, the BMS said.

BMS President Saji Narayanan and General Secretary Virjesh Upadhyay participated in the webinar.

All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) General Secretary Amarjeet Kaur told PTI that almost all unions were on same page to protest against state governments' move to increase working hours.  She said four states have amended laws to increase working hours to make up for production loss during lockdown.

She added that one of the four states has made a provision in law that no compensatory off or overtime would provided to workers for increased working hours.  At present, central law mandates eight hours work per day for six days a week.

The unions have also demanded free ration and Rs 7,500 for each needy family per month.

They asked the government to run trains or buses to facilitate movement of migrant workers to their homes.

Meanwhile, the labour ministry in a statement acknowledged the problems being faced by the working class, specially migrant workers, and assured all necessary cooperation to address the issues. PTI KKS ABM ABM