Representing the interests of more than 10 crore construction workers of the country, the National Campaign Committee for Central Legislation on Construction Labour (NCC-CL) is set to launch a massive campaign — joining hands with the unions of workers from other industrial sectors — to pressure the Modi government to withdraw the four Labour Codes it plans to introduce in Parliament soon.
These Labour Codes will entail the repealing of 44 existing labour laws — including the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996, or the BOCW Act.
The repeal of the BOCW Act will have a disastrous impact for the crores of construction workers in the country — as it will lead to the closure of all of the 36 state BOCW boards.
It will also entail cancellation of about 4 crore registrations of construction workers as beneficiaries, cancellation of the lakhs of pensions that are being paid to older workers and disabled workers in different states as well as cancellation of millions of scholarships being paid as education assistance to the children of construction workers — besides cancellation of several other benefits including maternity benefits.
The NCC-CL has already written to the prime minister and the labour minister opposing the 4 labour codes, demanding its withdrawal. In the first cabinet meeting of the new Modi Government, it was decided that the 4 labour codes will be passed in the Monsoon Session of Parliament.
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A meeting of the NCC-CL was held on June 27 in Delhi — attended by representatives from the National Mission for Protein Supplements (NMPS), Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA), Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) and All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) from Delhi, Bandhkam Mazdoor Sangathan of Gujarat and NMPS Tamil Nadu, along with student representatives from Bangalore.
The meeting decided to launch full-swing campaign efforts opposing the 4 labour codes.
The NCC-CL has decided to call a further national meeting on July 11 to plan a strategy to stop the looming repeal of the BOCW Act of 1996. The organisers who have come from different parts of the country to Delhi for the meeting also plan to meet the Members of Parliament of their constituencies/states in Delhi.
The NCC-CL’s coordinator Subhash Bhatnagar told PTI that according to a recent socio-economic survey of construction workers in Delhi, 97% of the workers had never received minimum wages. However, a significant number of them are registered with BOCW boards and are receiving some welfare benefits thanks to that.
A construction worker on average gets work for hardly 15 days in a month and earns roughly a quarter of the monthly minimum wage, said Bhatnagar.
Opposing the social security fund proposed in the codes, he said that the construction workers would be severely adversely affected if they were asked to pay a fixed percentage of their monthly wages for the social security fund.
“The construction workers are already entitled to social security from BOCW boards which is adequately funded by a cess on the building industry and BOCW's registration fees,” he told the news agency.
Under the BOCW Cess Act, 1996, there is a system of collecting a minimal cess of 1-2% of total construction cost from a construction establishment in order to fund the construction labourer’s social security.
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The NCC-CL has also decided to form a Joint Platform for the unorganised sector workers who are going to be adversely affected by the Labour Codes.
The new proposed Labour Codes would collapse all the existing legislations, enacted over several decades often after intense workers’ struggles, for the protection of benefits of industrial workers and replace them with 4 ‘codes’ covering four broad categories — wages, social security, industrial safety & welfare, and industrial relations.
All of the major Central Trade Unions have been vehemently opposing the move of introducing the labour codes and diluting labour protection. The NCC-CL also plans to persuade the major political parties to get the Labour Code Bills referred to a Joint Parliamentary Committee.