Millennium Post

We are serious about issues raised by trade unions: PM

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday said that  the government was serious about the issues raised by trade unions during the recent general strike as there could be 'no disagreement' on some of them and that it was willing to engage 'constructively' with the workers' bodies.

He said that while some demands such as containing inflation and generation of employment opportunities were 'unexceptionable', the government was already at an advanced stage for considering an universal social security cover for workers in both organised and unorganised sectors.

'Our government has paid very serious attention to the issues that trade unions have raised from time to time. The recent two-day strike by trade unions focused on a number of issues relating to the welfare not only of the working classes but also the people at large,' Singh said inaugurating the 45th session of Indian Labour Conference here.

These include demands on which there could be no disagreement such as demands for concrete measures for containing inflation, for generation of employment opportunities, for strict implementation of labour laws were unexceptionable, he said.

'There can, however, be differences on the best ways of fulfilling these demands and we are willing to engage constructively with the trade unions in this regard,' the Prime Minister said.

He said the government was also considering fixing a national floor-level minimum wage and provision of minimum pension of Rs. 1000 per month under the Employees' Pension Scheme.

The Prime Minister was confident that 'soon we will see some forward movement' on some other issues which require further dialogue, for which the government has set up a Group of Ministers under the Finance Minister.

Noting that the economy was going through difficult circumstances and 'our growth is not what we would like it to be', he sought enhanced partnership among the industry, trade unions and state governments to strengthen the economy and the society.

'Even as the government works for reversing this situation (the economic slowdown) and I am confident we can do so and we will do it, we need the cooperation of both captains of industry and our trade unions,' he said.

The Prime Minister also said that the demands of the trade unions, during their two-day general strike in February this year, reflected the concern that growth and progress should be inclusive and should particularly benefit the under-privileged sections of the society.

'This is a concern that has been very dear to our government. We believe that providing our people with productive employment opportunities is the best way of achieving this objective,' he said.

Singh said ever since the UPA government came to power in 2004, it has endeavoured to work for the welfare of workers and has delivered on the promises, even though much more needs to be done.

'When I look back at what I had said when I addressed the 40th Session of this Conference in 2005, I feel a sense of satisfaction that we have delivered substantially on the promises we had made at that time.

'I am happy that we have achieved good results in these areas, though I would be the first one to recognise that there is much that still needs to be done,' he said.

The Prime Minister said that despite the global meltdown, the government created 20 million additional job opportunities during the period between 2004-05 and 2009-10, leading to a drop in the employment rate from 8.3 per cent to 6.6 per cent. Employment in the organised sector also registered a growth of more than 9 per cent from 26.5 million in 2005 to 29 million in 2011.
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