Govt to ensure firms do not convert employees into contract workers

The Union government is planning to take measures to ensure companies do not convert their full-time workers into contract employees by misusing the proposed fixed-term contract framework. “We will put in place safeguards for workers in the fixed-term contract system and are working on various options. One of them is to ensure that permanent employees in an establishment are protected in such a way that they are not converted into fixed-term workers after we bring in the new law,” a labour and employment ministry official said on condition of anonymity. Officials said safeguard-related provisions would be included in the executive order on fixed-term employment, likely to be issued next month. The move is an outcome of a consultation meeting held on February 15 by the ministry with representatives of state governments, trade unions and industry. All the 12 state governments represented in the meeting were in favour of fixed-term contracts. Three trade unions, the RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, the National Front of Indian Trade Unions, and the Trade Union Coordination Centre, also supported the move, apart from employers’ associations, according to sources. Other trade unions, however, walked out of the meeting as a mark of protest over not holding consultations before announcing the move in the Union Budget. In the Budget for 2018-19, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced the government’s decision to allow hiring workers on fixed-term contracts for all employers. Fixed-term contracts allow industries to hire workers for short-term assignments and terminate their services once the project is completed. The labour and employment ministry had issued the draft Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Central (Amendment) Rules, 2018, on January 8, inviting public comments for a period of 30 days. Workers hired through fixed-term contracts will be entitled to all statutory benefits available to permanent workers in the same factory proportionate to the period of service, according to the draft notification. Ministry officials said these would include benefits provided by the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation and the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation, apart from bonus, gratuity and other compensation in case of accidents or death while at work. However, employers are not mandated to provide retrenchment benefits to such workers.

IN the proposed framework, employers may not give notice to fixed-term workers on non-renewal or expiry of their contracts.

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