Workshop on Social Security for Unorganised Workers. A Report

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1 Workshop on Social Security for Unorganised Workers 24 TH JULY 2013, KOLKATA A Report - Secretary General,SSAI The workshop project on social security needs of the unorganised workers in our society was held on 24 th July, 2013 in Kolkata. This workshop was a joint venture of Social Security Association, India and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) New Delhi. The workshop was supported by three corporate members of the Association, viz., PetronetLNG, ESIC and Indian Oil Corporation. Shri Amal Roy Choudhury, Secretary, Department of Labour, Government of West Bengal, was the Chief Guest on the occasion. Hon ble Labour Minister, Government of West Bengal, could not be personally present on the occasion due to code of conduct then in force on account of local self-government elections. As many as thirty six invitees representing trade unions, civil society 1

2 organisations, members of State Social Security Board and government representatives from the States of Manipur, Jharkhand, Andaman & Nicobar Islands Administration and West Bengal participated in the proceedings. 2. The workshop was a day long occasion consisting of an inaugural session, three technical sessions and a concluding session wherein the sense of the workshop was summed up in the form of a resolution to be forwarded to the Ministry of Labour and Employment and Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India as well as to the participating State Governments. 3. In the inaugural session Secretary General of the Association unveiled the theme of the workshop in depth as follows. About 430 million workers constituting 93% of Indian work force is engaged in the informal or unorganized sector. They contribute to estimated 60% of GDP, 55% of national savings and 47% of all exports. But ironically workers of this sector are amongst the poorest and most vulnerable section of the 2

3 society. They work long hours for their low wages. They are engaged in multiple economic activities for survival. Most of them have no fixed employer- employee relationship. They do not have access to work and income security, food security and have no basic social security like, health care, child care, insurance and pension. Workers in this sector are most vulnerable and socially neglected. They do not receive equal remuneration. According to the National Council for Enterprises in Unorganized Sector (NCEUS) over 70% of workers live on Rs.20/- per day. To address the problems of these workers in a systematic manner Parliament has now enacted a legislation, called, Social Security for Unorganised Workers Act,2008. But the hitch is that more than four years since then have passed but the Central Government has not formulated and notified a minimum social security package for all workers in the unorganized sector. With the exception of the Rasthriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) little has been done to extend other benefits of social sector to the vast number of this category of the working people. 3

4 3. Admittedly there is a huge deficit in the coverage of the unorganized sector workers in the matter of labour protection and social security measures for ensuring the welfare and wellbeing of the workers in this sector. The Act of 2008 seeks to introduce measures to fill up the gap as stated earlier and seeks to provide for social security and welfare of the workers. This has sought to be implemented by constituting a National Social Security Board to recommend suitable welfare measures for different sections of unorganized sector workers. The Act provides that each State Government shall also constitute State level Social Security Board to recommend suitable welfare schemes for different sections of unorganized workers in that State. 4. With the aforesaid background, he exhorted the participants to focus on the architecture of social security for the unorganised workers as envisaged in the Act of 2008, the shortcomings of the Act as referred to above and to consider, in the backdrop of this legislation, how to ensure social security needs of the unorganised workers with reference to the following points: * Strengthening of the State Social Security Boards. 4

5 * Creation of National Social Security Fund. * Payment of minimum wage. * What ail Swavalamban scheme? * Strategy formulation for implementation of social security cover. 5. Shri Amal Roy Choudhury, Secretary, Government of West Bengal who delivered the keynote address on the occasion gave an overview of the social security environment in the State of West Bengal and gave a broad view of the various policy initiatives taken by the State Government. He focused on the constraints in implementing the social security measures for the unorganised workers. He stated that the most important problem affecting activities in this sector related to lack of adequate fund for this purpose. He regretted that Central Government had not so far come out with any financial support to the State Government to invigorate the implementation of various schemes. He also pointed out that the functioning of the labour department was basically of 5

6 regulatory nature and that the States were implementing the legislative provisions for maintaining industrial peace only. Such a policy stance was not conducive to flourishing of social security measures. Another factor affecting smooth progress of work was lack of adequate skilled manpower to support the schemes. He, therefore, suggested that the challenge of manpower shortage and other infrastructure snags could be overcome only by rapid computerization of the data base. He was also of the view that in implementing social security schemes no distinction should be made on the basis of economic divide of the population like, below poverty line or above poverty line. Similarly, no income ceiling should be imposed for distributing benefits of the social security schemes. 6. In the first technical session senior officers of the Labour Department of West Bengal made presentations on the policy and schemes of their government for protecting the interests of unorganised workers. Elaborate presentation was made on the 6

7 State Assisted Provident Fund Scheme for Unorganised Workers, As presented the scheme features are as follows. The membership of the Scheme is open to workers aged between 18 years and 60 years having family income of Rs 6500 per month. This Scheme is being run under the supervision of local self government authorities, under the direct control of the Labour Department and by engaging a large number of self help groups for collection of contributions, enrolment of new members and for awareness campaigning. The subscribers under the scheme have been offered a series of benefits like, accident benefit, sickness benefit, death benefit and monthly pension after 60 years of age, disability pension, widow pension, home loan, educational scholarship, maternity benefit, funeral grant, financial assistance for purchase of equipments, financial assistance for marriage, assistance for purchase of cycle. On completion of sixty years or if a member wishes to secede from the scheme at any point of time 7

8 the entire accumulation in the Fund is returned to the subscriber with 8% interest. 8. The State Government has also set up a welfare scheme for the Bidi workers who are home based workers. Under this scheme, Bidi workers are entitled to grant for electricity connection at home, for house building and for renovation of the house. A social security scheme has also been introduced for the transport workers. Under this Scheme these workers are entitled to monthly pension after 60 years of age, accident benefit, sickness benefit for certain types of ailments, maternity benefit and so on. The State Government has identified forty nine industries and twelve self employed occupational groups for cover under the Scheme. The Government carries out awareness camps. 9. During interface after the presentation several suggestions were made from the floor of the workshop as to how to strengthen the schemes. Firstly, it was suggested that the trade unions should 8

9 be actively involved in conducting awareness camps. Secondly, the subscription collecting agents should be paid their remuneration on regular basis to sustain their interest in the work. Thirdly, trade union representatives suggested that adequate manpower should be deployed for proper management of the scheme. Lastly, that the transport drivers who were not unionized should also be registered and given smart cards. 10. In the second technical session the government representatives from Andaman & Niccobar Islands Administration, Jharkhand and Manipur made presentations. Labour Commissioner, A&NI Administration, stated that the Administration was running one scheme for the construction workers. They have, so far, registered eight lakh construction workers under the scheme. The main problem faced by them was that as most of the labour were migrant workers and did not stay more than six months at a stretch in the islands coverage and delivery of benefits always posed problems. However, the 9

10 Administration has started pension scheme for the construction workers from this year. He further stated that the population below poverty line and those who were sixty years of age or more are covered under Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme(IGNOAP). 11. Addl Director, Social Security, Jharkhand stated that as per the policy of his Government up to 30 th June, 2013 death benefits had been provided to 30 lakhs of people under BPL. The population above 60 years was covered through National Old Age Pension Scheme. 80 thousand people had been covered under Aam Aadmi Bima Yojna where the premium for the insurance policies was paid by the Life Insurance Corporation of India and the State Government on the equal share basis. He stated that Swavalambam Yojana had been successfully implemented in the State and beneficiaries were paid their dues within 7 days of arising of the claim. ( Under the Swavalambam scheme the members are required to contribute to the scheme (Pension Scheme) and the 10

11 State Government makes a lump sum contribution annually.) A question was raised in the workshop that as there was no job guarantee for the unorganised workers how they could maintain continuity in their contribution. The workshop was of the view that the problems would be better solved by introducing a universal pension scheme where no contribution was required to be made by the beneficiaries. 12. Executive Director, RSBY, Manipur, stated that labour population in the State was very small due to lack of industries. However, the State Government was implementing Manipur Shop and Establishments Act, Employees Compensation Act,1923 and RSBY for BPL population. So far 64,265 smart cards had been issued and six hospitals had been networked for free hospitalization and treatment of the beneficiaries under RSBY. So far 10,965 people had received medical benefits. For the welfare of construction workers, State Government was collecting 1% cess but unfortunately the collected amount was being deposited with 11

12 the Finance Department and therefore the funding of the welfare schemes for the construction workers was getting affected. However, the State Government was taking care of the migrant workers under the existing law. The State Government was also offering educational scholarship for the tribal students from Class I to the degree level. 13. In the third technical session the members of the State Social Security Board, trade union leaders, employers representatives made the following suggestions for ensuring social security for the unorganised workers. Keeping in view that this group of workers contributes 55% of domestic savings and 60% of the GDP the following suggestions were made as summarised below:- i) Coverage threshold under employees Provident Fund Act should be reduced to 10 employees. ii) BPL condition for pension eligibility should be abolished. 12

13 iii) Attitude outlook and policy focus of the Government should undergo total metamorphosis. iv) Food security and wage security should be provided as the workers are co-sharers in productivity. v) Social security should be considered liability of the industries. vi) Labour Acts and Rules should be simplified vii) Budgetary support to schemes like IGNOAP/MGNREGA should be increased for the cause of unorganised sector. viii) Self employed professionals should be covered under the scheme(s). ix) In construction sectors Helpers/Mistries to be included in the eligible group. x) Zari workers, who are home based workers, should be covered under the Schemes, like Bidi workers. xi) Home based workers engaged in sewing and cutting industries should be included under the schemes. 13

14 xii) Right to work should be recognized as a fundamental Right. xiii) Workers working for the NGOs should also be covered under the Schemes. xiv) ESI Scheme should be extended for the benefit of unorganised workers. xv) Collection of subscription for the Scheme should be done through the trade unions. xvi) Minimum level of pension under EPS to be raised to In the concluding session, consensus emerged that benefits which have been devised under the various schemes should lead to decent living otherwise all efforts would be futile. So the quantum of benefit was as important as the quality. Accordingly the following resolution was 14

15 passed by the Workshop for consideration of the competent authorities for betterment of social security environment in the society:- This Workshop having considered the policy initiatives of the Government of India and the various State governments to guarantee right to life to the common citizens including the unorganised workers who constitute the backbone of the national economy commend the following actions to be taken by the Central as well as State governments, National and State Social Boards for ensuring wholesome social security measures for the unorganised workers. i) Eligibility condition for obtaining benefits under the social security schemes should be made without the condition of BPL/APL. Social security should be available to all without any barrier. 15

16 ii) Various social security schemes for diverse groups of unorganised workers should be unified for better implementation and cost effectiveness. iii) Adopting the technology and work processes of RSBY, smart cards should be distributed at speed among all unorganised workers and registration process to be simplified. iv) Single window delivery of benefits should be introduced. v) Social Security Boards should be endowed with executive powers for effective implementation and supervision of schemes for the unorganised sectors. vi) National Old Age Pension Scheme should also be supervised by the Social Security Boards. vii) National Social Security Fund should be created and regular annual transfer of funds to the State Boards should be ensured. 16

17 viii) National Minimum wage should be worked out sooner than later. ix) Government should look into the problems of women workers, like, the issue of unequal pay and sexual harassment at the workplace. It is further resolved unanimously that Social Security Association of India be requested to take up the recommendations of this Workshop with the State Governments, the Government of India and also with the State Social Security Boards for due consideration and appropriate action on the aforesaid recommendations. 15. The meeting ended with a vote of thanks to the Chair. 17