06 January 2010

Charter Of Demands

Asanghatit Kshetra Shramik Sangrami Manch
(Platform for Struggling Unorganised Sector Workers)
4/1, Bhavnath Sen Street , Kolkata-700004. Ph 033-2543-5381

Charter of Demands

Wages: As you know, almost 93% of our workforce belongs to unorganized sector workers. Though there is a wage rate prescribed for these sectors by the State Government, the workers never get the government declared minimum wage. In addition, our members (unorganized sector workers) also do not get enough job opportunity throughout the entire year. In this situation we expect the Government to at least implement its own laws viz.

The previous Government was in the process of revising minimum wages. Though we believe that the floor level minimum wage should be higher, as a temporary measure, this process must be completed without delay and notification of these wages must be done forthwith.

As a permanent measure, we demand the use of the 15th Indian Labour Conference norms and Supreme Court orders to revise the minimum wage further. By these calculations, the floor level minimum wage should be Rs.316 for urban areas and Rs.290 for rural areas. As many small and marginal employers may find their businesses and farms becoming unviable if they have to pay such wages, we demand that part of the wage should be subsidised by the Government through provisions of services like free education (including costs of items like books, uniforms, all kinds of fees, special coaching etc.), free health coverage, subsidized rations etc. This revised wage must be declared in next 6 months.

Wages must be revised in a regular manner, as per the Act and established norms. Injunctions or other legal action taken by employers to avoid payment of minimum wages must be dealt with promptly by the Government.

Minimum wage implementation in this state is a farce. Many blocks do not have minimum wage inspectors and inspectors are generally busy with all activities other than the implementation of the Minimum Wage Act. We demand appointment of at least two minimum wage inspectors per block as well as monitoring of the punitive actions that they take regarding violations of the Minimum Wage Act.

Stringent punitive measures under the Minimum Wages Act must be introduced as the existing system is useless. Disposal of complaints must be done in a time bound manner.

We demand the enactment of an act like Maharashtra Recognition of Trade Unions and Prevention of Unfair Labour Practices Act 1971 and other progressive measures to enable workers to get quick remedies to their complaints, instead of going through the laborious tribunal system. Labour courts must also be empowered, strengthened and decentralized in order to get justice. We demand a speedy effective judicial system at the block level for redressal.

In order to ensure that workers are able to systematically deal with unfair labour practices and wage cheating, all unorganized sector workers must be given identity cards.

All workers of closed industrial units must be extended facilities to relieve their problems like automatic exclusion and extension of BPL facilities, provision of unemployment allowance, provisions of cheap food etc.

Subsidised Food:

We all know the fact that as per the NCEUS Report , 77% of Indians earn Rs. 12-20 per head in a day. Despite this , the Government has limited the number of BPL households at 36%. Again, even this limited BPL list is faulty. The BPL survey was conducted by incompetent and vested persons and as a result many people, even in some cases, entire villages, were excluded in the survey.

The state cannot deny its role in improving the status of its people. The efficiency of its workforce is very much dependent on nutrition and health. In today’s market, the prices of essential commodities are so high that lots of people are suffering from under-nutrition and hunger. Hence we demand the following

All unorganized sector workers must be automatically extended subsidized food.

To begin with, all such workers must be provided 7 kgs of rice and wheat per head per month at Rs.2 per kg to begin with. Coverage of 80% of the population through an expanded PDS would mean a minimisation of exclusion and inclusion errors created by BPL identification and targeting, by which subsidised food reaches the ones who do not need it while the poor get excluded.

Other reforms must be put in place to make the PDS successful. Some of these ae:

De-privatization of fair price shops, and handing over the same to women’s self help groups, Panchayats , cooperatives and other women’s groups;

Delivery of food commodities from the Government godown to the ration shop by the Government, with removal of corrupt middlemen like wholesalers and distributers (an immediate step in this direction is the cancellation of 14 distributors who were appointed just before the elections for Kolkata and surrounding districts);

End-to-end computerization of all information (ration cards, allotments, off-take etc.)

Putting in place an effective system of transparency, accountability and grievance redressal,

Decentralized procurement and storage at the block level.

The State should make a universal food security programme its flagship programme. A state level food security act should also be enacted.


Employment Guarantee:

Next comes the central flagship program MGNREGA for employment generation of rural and urban areas, which would have been very important to provide job security to every family, provided it was being implemented properly. But due to lack of proper implementation system it has failed miserably. Our specific demands are

There are huge pending wages which should be immediately paid through a special payment drive.

Ensure that banks, post offices and the payment systems at the block and Panchayat level are efficiently run so that workers are paid within 15 days of completion of work , as per the Act.

All applicants must get work within 15 days of the application, as per the Act, and 100 days of work should be created for all such applicants.

Mechanisms for prompt enquiry and payment of unemployment allowance, along with a budgetary provisions for payment of unemployment allowance must be made

New mechanisms for prompt enquiry and payment of compensation for late payment of wages must be set up exclusively for NREGS workers, so that they do not have to resort to the non functional Labour Courts.

SORs must be revised to ensure that all workers always get minimum wage.

There should be a special drive for work for women, old people and disabled. Schedule of rates must be re-examined for their existing bias against women workers

Special schemes for work during monsoons must be identified by the Government and standing instructions on opening of works after disasters must be issued

Work site facilities at NREGS worksites as per the Act must be ensured.

The Central Government allows for the use of the National Calamity Relief Fund for creation of 150 days of work during disasters. This must be institutionalised into a permanent standing order so that after disasters this fund is automatically used to create extra work.

Exemplary and stringent punishment should be given for all Panchayat level functionaries who do not accept work applications,

The scheme should be expanded to ensure that every adult to get 270 days of work, instead of 100 days in a year, at the statutory minimum wage.

On the lines of MGNREGA, a state level urban EGA should be started for urban unemployed unorganized sector workers.

Old age pension:

Please ensure payment of all the present backlog in pensions immediately and payment by the 7th of every month for every pensioner under IGNOAPS, in keeping with Supreme court orders

We appeal for your prompt action on the above mentioned demands. We hope you will not disappoint us like the previous Government. We are open to any sort of discussion on these matters and are willing to help you in any manner within our capacity.

(on behalf of the Manch)

Somnath Ghosh, Swapan Ganguly, Chandan Sanyal, Pritish Bose, Sushovan Dhar, Bodhsatwa Ray, Sumit Sinha, Anuradha Talwar

Date: June 8, 2011

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