Sanjay Bhatia, President, All India Organization of Employers (AIOE)
The ongoing Inspector Raj and procedural complexities had stifled the potential of Small and Micro Enterprises (MSME). The reforms, riding on technology, constitute a significant milestone. He hoped that these efforts would improve compliances drastically. However, providing training to rural-based enterprises on application of portal would be critical for the success of the scheme.
Improving Apprenticeship System would require facilitating enterprises through incentives to encourage them to enroll more apprentices. It is really a matter of concern that while the number of enterprises in the country exceeds 40 million, there are only 2.81 lakh apprentices trained every year. Every ‘working place’ should be a ‘training place’ Bhatia said.
The Bills to amend the Factories Act, Apprentices Act and Labour Laws (Exemption from Furnishing Returns & Maintaining Registers by Certain Establishments) Act, 1988 already placed in the Parliament had signaled a positive message to the industry on the intent of the government.
Removing some of the harsh provisions in the Factories Act like imprisonment even for minor violations is greatly appreciated and increasing overtime hours from 50 to 100 per quarter would help to execute production related targets within the time schedule.
Adoption of Unified Account Number (UAN) by the EPF organization would not only make transfer of accounts simpler, but would also solve the issue of unclaimed accounts which hold Rs 27,000 crore.
Finally, the second phase of labour policy reforms would address more important areas like allowing industry to engage contract labour freely and removing government intervention in ‘restructuring or right sizing of industry’, which would provide fresh impetus to employment generation.
K.V. Raghavaiah, Senior Advisor, EFI
People who take up IR as a profession, particularly at the entry level, should have the aptitude and the capability for IR. People think that IR ranks lower than its contemporary branches. However, that is not true. You develop negotiating skills, persuasive skills, collaborative skills and so much else; and these skills can be used across verticals. Therefore, the biggest challenge for the IR industry is to ensure that good people are attracted to the field. One of the reasons people do not opt for IR is because they think they will have to deal with unions. Trade unions need to function in a democratized and civilized way and they can take that responsibility to change the face of this profession as well.
What is our ultimate goal? We want to make an unstoppable India, which becomes the manufacturing and retail hub of the world. So, if IR and ER are not given priority, this manufacturing dream of the Modi government cannot take off. Just like creating good infrastructure, Employee Relations and good Industry Relations will also have to be worked upon.
The new generation will be attracted to the field only if the leadership inspires them. It is about connecting with them socially and politically. Salary competitiveness may not always be there, but they should be made to feel that they are contributing to the society. I am sure that if GenY can be inspired, they will be attracted to this sector.
Everyone works for dignity and pride. Over generations, we have been treating factory jobs like menial jobs and people who work in this sector are trying to compensate on that by earning more. So I think like advanced countries, we will also evolve and every job will have pride and dignity associated with it. I am an optimist and I myself am working towards it.
Tine Staermose, Director-ILO-DWT-India, New Delhi
I have spent close to 16 years in the field of Industrial Relations in South Asia and have had some good experiences in dispute resolution and reaching a common understanding that might be more home prone than other cultures. Having said that, the universal principles laid down at International Labour Conventions are clear and I do believe that even within Indian industrial families, there need to be rules of the game. And this is where the government comes in. I have great hopes for the future of the industrial relations eco system. It does not have to be either pro-labour or pro-industry; it has to be an ‘and’ between the two sides.
Bhagirati Dhal, Ex. Executive Director (P&A), SAIL
In the next couple of years, contract labour will be one of the major issues facing the country. While it is laudable that the government is introducing labour reforms, they need to include the industry and the trade unions at this stage because once the laws are amended, it would become difficult to change the reality on the ground any time soon.
Some initiatives are taking place at a bipartite level where the unions and industries are working together without the interference of others in areas of common interest. It is about building trust and finding common ground slowly and steadily.
Contract labour is a very explosive issue, which will lead to a very large-scale problem if it is not handled urgently and at a very fast pace. While some noticeable work has been done by CII West and Northern regions with the help of pilot projects, many central trade unions along with a number of industry bodies are now working in collaboration on this issue. The stakeholders have to be taken along to make an impact.
The other issue would be of the enforcement agencies which the government has created over a period of time. They are inadequate bodies with very less sensitivity and concern than what is expected of them. This issue now needs to be taken up on priority. When it comes to ESI, the employers are paying the money. However, the hospitals need to be created and the benefits must reach the people. Rather than talking about these issues at forums and conferences, they need to be addressed on priority. If there is a major income gap between contract and regular workers, it will lead to a lot of issues and the violent route it has now taken could be a very bad precedent.
Another important issue is providing minimum working conditions and safety at the workplace. The maximum number of fatalities at the workplace involve contract labour; they need to be owned and provided for. For things like working conditions and safety issues, a company should not differentiate between regular and contract labour. And these issues will keep cropping up unless it is addressed by industry bodies like CII, FICCI, AIOE, EFI and others. They are already on the job, but it is time to ramp up these efforts.
Rajat Seth, HR and Administration Head, SLCM
In today’s scenario, the importance of Industrial Relations has increased tremendously as IR managers can help tackle conflict management. It is quite easy to deal with the educated and intellectual class compared to the labour class. The IR manager has to understand the psyche of the labour class to solve their problems and act as a bridge between the employer and the labourer. IR issues are very critical and it is up to the managers to make it simple.
Since labour is a subject in the concurrent list of the Indian Constitution, where both the Centre and the state can amend and frame the labour laws, it varies from state to state making it difficult for IR managers to follow the laws strictly. Productivity & flexibility are not mentioned anywhere in Industrial Disputes Act 1948 and hence it becomes difficult to retrench any worker or take any steps against him even though he is not working according to expectations. But, we believe the government is striking the right chord to overcome the challenges.
We at SLCM manage our workforce in a very efficient way by being compliant with the law of the land and empathetic towards our workforce by giving them solutions to their problems. We make it a point to cover each employee in a month and the HR representative talks to each one individually, formally or informally. I can proudly say that we have so far managed the force across 20 states and 600 warehouses.