Standing Up for Working Lives
May Day celebrates the working people of the world. It is also a day to remember the struggles the workers have gone through to build the world around us. The working people are the backbone of any economy, and it is only fair that the economy must work for them. The LDF Government in Kerala believes that Kerala only succeeds when working families succeed. This conviction inspires the policies and actions of the Government.
LDF government is completing its first year in office this month. In this one year it has taken a series of steps to improve the working life in the state. A comprehensive approach was commenced to improve all aspects of work. This involved revising wages, ameliorating working conditions, providing security to workers, instilling better practices, creating opportunities, investing on skills & talent, enforcing standards, updating rules and improving the business environment.
The first step in improving the working life involves in ensuring a decent pay for work. Currently eighty sectors in the state fall under the minimum wage category. Government has decided to replace all minimum wage notifications that had completed 3 years of existence. Wages were revised for workers engaged in mid-day meal projects, ICE factories, pharmaceutical sales promotions, printing press, gold and silver ornaments industries, elephant keeping, bamboo work, Ayurveda- Modern medicine shops and trading, domestic, beedi and cigarette industries. Eleven out of the sixteen workers Welfare Fund Boards were restructured by the ministry. Relief & protection was provided for workers who were left without wages of closed factories. 12116 workers of public sector coir & plantation workers of closed factories were allocated an ex gratia payment of Rs 21.7 Million. The honorarium of librarians and nursery teachers was raised from Rs 2050 to Rs 12000 and of nursery Ayahs from Rs 1400 to Rs 8000. The construction of a labour complex in Munnar costing Rs 22.3 Million has started.
Securing the lives of Workers and Pensioners
Government is building a strong security net for the working people of Kerala. From housing to insurance; every aspects of life is being transformed. Income ceiling for agricultural workers’ welfare pensions was raised from Rs 11000 to Rs 100000. Under this Government, all pensions under the Labour ministry were raised to Rs 1100. Government gave out pensions amounting to Rs 1.26 Billion to 150000 recipients during last Onam. Through various Welfare Funds Rs 1.18 Billion was distributed to 240000 Million pensioners as well. Dependents of forty deceased plantation workers were given Rs 25000 each as a relief.
The Comprehensive Health Insurance Scheme of Kerala widened the scope of health insurance available for informal workers. A total of 590000 individuals from 330000 registered families were given free medical service. The State Government provides health benefits to poor families who are not covered by the Union Government’s RSBY (Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana). Currency demonetisation has caused wreckage in the plantation sector, but the State government’s timely intervention helped to mitigate the ill effects.
A health insurance-based welfare scheme was introduced for migrant workers in the state. An insurance card that can also be used as an identity card was issued. Government has also conducted awareness & medical camp for migrant workers to get them registered. Rs 5 Million have been allocated for this and so far seventy two such camps have been held.
Improving and expanding housing facilities for workers
The total housing plan for the State, Mission LIFE, will improve housing facilities for workers in the state. Bhavanam foundation is a non-profit public undertaking under the Labour & Skills ministry to provide, promote, develop and establish residential accommodation, education, healthcare, other associated infrastructure and services to workers and low-waged employees in Kerala. Apna Ghar project of Bhavanam foundation is building an apartment complex for migrant workers in the KINFRA industrial park in Kanjikode, Palakkad. Around 768 labourers will benefit from this initiative. Janani project helps low-paid labourers, workers and employees in the State to own a house. 215 flats of 645 sq ft each are nearing completion in Adimali. The Jannai Project’s Ponjassery Scheme is building another set of 296 flats of size 715 sq ft spread out in 2.2 acres of land in Ernakulam district. Work has also started on a similar project in Akkulam, Thiruvananthapuram. The Labour ministry conducted a survey among homeless plantation workers and identified 30887 workers’ households to be eligible. As a first step Mission Life will construct 450 houses of size 400 sq ft there.
Instilling Better Practises in our workplaces
Protecting employment standards is a priority for this government. To enforce compliance of rules, the Labour ministry conducted inspections at various workplaces in the State. Special emphasis was given to the textile sector of the state where a large percentage of the workforce is women. A state-wide inspection was done on 18th of June 2016 to scrutinise the condition of that sector. Employers who had not abided by the norms were prosecuted or slapped with claim petitions. A total of 31832 inspections were conducted, which led to 6670 prosecutions and the filing of 1076 claim petitions.
Though child labour is not prevalent in the State, our Government is committed to a total abolition of this inhumane practice. A task force was set up under the District Collector and the District Labour Officer to conduct inspections and awareness campaigns. To prevent child trafficking into the state, the government has joined the Operation Smile campaign of the Central Government.
The Government is also implementing a Grading system for the factories/workplaces in the state based on various aspects related to labour. This will incentivise employers to improve the conditions at workplaces. Criteria used for grading will include implementation of labour rules & minimum wages, health & holiday benefits to employees, duration of working hours, hygiene, friendliness to women workforce, customer service and participation in local development.
Making laws work for workers
Government introduced many legislations in this last one year to make Kerala a better place for its workers. It has broadened the definition of a worker, to include the sales promotion workers. Adequate protection will be provided for the workers in the unorganised sector to stop exploitative practices. Deputy labour commissioners were charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the arrears and other benefits are given to workers. Government’s Wage Security Scheme will ensure wages for the unorganised workers in the private sector by ensuring that salaries are paid through banks, Government will be able to enforce minimum wages in this sector. Till day 90115 workers of 4180 enterprises have received around Rs 4.24 Billion by this means.
Investing in skills
In our times investing in skill development is an integral part of protecting the jobs of our workers. Government has envisioned an array of services to teach our workforce skills and knowledge they need to get ahead in life. Ensuring that the next generation has the skills they need to compete in the world will be one of the key drivers of economic success in the coming years.
Kerala Academy for Skills Excellence (KASE) is the nodal agency for all skill development activities of the state dedicated to skilling the young workforce of Kerala and elevating their skills to global standards for employment. Under KASE many centres and training facilities offer courses to students and professionals. Accreditations were given for many new courses in the past one year. Government has assigned KASE as a special purpose vehicle under KIIFB to elevate 10 ITIs to international standards. Construction of the academic block of the Indian Institute of Infrastructure and Construction (IIIC) has been completed. Government has also formed a committee with experts in the industry to conceive the future course of the centre.
Kerala Institute of Labour and Employment (KILE) provides education, training and research in labour, employment and related subjects, with special reference to Kerala. In the last one year KILE has conducted many trainings and workshops. Workers and trade unionists were given training during this period in labour laws and other professional skills. An awareness camp was conducted in Malappuram for construction workers to make them aware about risk and safety in that sector. In Thiruvananthapuram, domestic workers were trained in labour laws & welfare measures available for them. Awareness camps were also conducted in hygiene, occupational diseases, health, drug & alcohol awareness. To lessen the disparity between students from villages and towns, 394 children were given training in Life Skills & vocational Guidance. Workers from the unorganised sector and their dependents were given training for competitive exams.
ITIs under Industrial Training Directorate providing Vocational and Apprenticeship training to the youths in Kerala were given special consideration by the Government. New courses were started, new posts were created and a major revamping of infrastructure was ensured. Ten ITIs received ISO certification and 100 trades in fourteen ITIs procured NCVT affiliation. In eighty ITIs across the state 26400 trainees received a nutritioous meal everyday that included brown bread, egg and a banana. Mid-day meals were given to trainees in Aryanad, Nilambur and Attapadi.
Professionals from Kerala are known for their quality, skills and professionalism. They have succeeded globally and have contributed immensely to the building of our nation. Kerala Government actively involves itself in creating opportunities for its workforce. Various agencies of the government put this task into action.
Overseas Development and Employment Promotion Consultants (ODEPC) Ltd. is one of the first recruitment agency operated by Government of Kerala focussing on the overseas deployment of high skilled Keralites. A new modernised office of ODEPC started its operation in November 2016. ODEPC has also started nursing recruitment for European countries. The Recruitment numbers of Nurses deployed in GCC countries increased by 644.
National Employment Service Directorate is another interface between the employers and the job seekers. Career development centres started functioning in Perambra and Chittur. An employability centre became operational in Kasargod. NESD also promotes self-employment through various schemes. Sharanya scheme aimed at promoting self-employment the Government released Rs 0.16 Billions as loans. 3338 applicants received jobs through the Niyukthi Mega Job Fair.
Rs 280 Million was distributed through unemployment allowance Scheme to 192000 beneficiaries, helping them to keep their dignity even in the troubled times of unemployment.
Improving the work environments
Kerala constantly strives to improve the work environment in the State to foster growth and to create jobs. But this is not done by racing to the bottom of pay, working condition or talent. Instead the focus is on improving the conditions for businesses to thrive, and thereby making it better for both the employer and the worker. Under this government Industrial Relations committee was reorganised. Industrial Relations committee consists of members with thorough knowledge about the issues experienced by the employers and workmen. A meeting of the central trade unions was called to improve the working conditions and to reduce industrial disputes in the state. Timely intervention by the Labour ministry helped to resolve many industrial disputes that arose in the last one year. Ministry level discussions helped to resolve disputes in Punalur rehabilitation plantation replanting, MRF, Muthoot, KSBC, Travancore Sugars etc. Out of the 3512 industrial disputes that arose in this period 2637 were resolved through deliberations and 298 were referred to courts.