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  Memorandum 2
Presented to : Honourable Labour Minister Shri. Saheb Singh Verma
Presented by : Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), Ahmedabad
Place : Ahmedabad
Date : 24th January 2003
Subject :The Unorganized Sector’s Workers Bill 2003

Self Employed Women's Association, SEWA was established in 1972 as a trade union Thus from last 30 years SEWA is organizing the women workers in the unorganized sector for full employment and self reliance. SEWA has 700,000 members in five states of India working as home based workers, vendors, labour and service providers and producers.

In India the unorganized sector constitutes 93% of the total workforce of the country. We welcome the Umbrella Legislation for the workers of the unorganized sector prepared by National Commission of Labour and the initiative taken by the Government of India to make it in a Bill to be presented in Parliament.

Today, in this meeting with our members we would like to present you, as per our experience, the changes that are needed in "The Unorganized Sector Workers' Bill 2003".
» Schedule of Employment : Chapter I Section 2 a (n) :
  A Schedule is defined in the Bill which includes 122 employments. In our experience schedules are always a problem as in a changing economy new employments are added and old ones disappear. Furthermore, as there are thousands of employments in India, many are left out of the Schedule. We suggest that instead of trying to put a schedule of its own, the Bill should rely on the extensive work done by the Census of India and include all those employments, which are listed in the Census of India
» Definition of Unorganized Worker : Chapter I a(p) :

The main problem for the unorganized labour is the employer–employee relationship. This relationship either does not exist, as in the case of the self employed, or as in the case of home-based workers or agricultural labour, it becomes very difficult to actually prove it. The definition should do away with the mention of the employer–employee relationship.

Definition included in Chapter I, section 2(p) of the worker should be changed to :

Unorganized sector worker means any person :

(a) who is engaged in one or me employment(s) as per categories of the Census of India directly on his or her own account, or through any     agency, such as contractor or employer.

(b) In any place of work including any establishment his or her own home, field, premises or any public place, which may or may not be under          the control of others.
» Members of Central and State Boards : Chapter II 4 (f) :

Along with persons mentioned as members it is important that workers of unorganized sector should be represented in the Board(s). Also employers and other associations dealing with unorganized sector workers should be represented in the Board(s).

We suggest that Section 4 (f) should be deleted and should read as :

4 (f). Five persons representing trade unions of unorganized sector workers.

Another section should be added as follows :

4 (h).Five persons representing employers and associations dealing with unorganized sector workers.

» Workers Facilitation Center : Chapter II 12 :
  The Workers Facilitation Center will be main instrument for implementation of the Bill so it should be strengthened and empowered. Therefore we suggest the following changes :

1. The registration of workers should be the responsibility of the Workers Facilitation Center. So the section 12 (a) should read as :
    (a) Registration of workers and giving them social security numbers and identity cards.

2. The function of Disputes Resolutions should be with the Workers Facilitation Center so 12 (c) should read as:
    (c) Resolution of labour disputes through conciliation and arbitration by setting up committees in consultation with the State Board.

3. The Workers Facilitation Center should also have functions of increasing skill and productivity. So in Section 12 the following clauses should be added:
    12 (f) skill upgradation training to increase the skill of workers.
    12 (g) to provide marketing linkages to workers.
    12 (h) to constitute employment exchanges for unorganized sector.
    12 (j) to provide linkages for financial services to workers.
» Shramik Samrakshak : Chapter VI 33 :
  A careful reading of the Bill shows that the Shramik Samrakshak is the same as the present labour inspector. The Bill would continue the same “inspector raj” as before. Furthermore the appointment of Shramik Samrakshak is by the Government as a Government employee and will be serving as Panchayat functionary, without reference to the Workers Facilitation Center. Such a mechanism is unacceptable to us as it the repetition of the present labour enforcement machinery which has been ineffective in the unorganized sector. Furthermore adding Panchayat functionaries in this machinery will complicate and weaken the accountability system.

Therefore we propose that the function of enforcement and monitoring be taken up by the Workers Facilitation Centers and adequate resources should be provided for the same.

» Registration of Workers as beneficiaries and for Social Security : Chapter V 30 :

1. The registration of the workers and giving them the identity card and social security number is a very important function of this Bill. It is the way to reach all these crores of scattered workers and make them visible. It is also the way to empower the workers and help them to organize themselves. The registration of workers should be decentralized, widespread and inclusive which would help in organizing process. Therefore we suggest the following changes :

30 (2) Registration of beneficiaries should be the responsibility of the Workers Facilitation Center, who will appoint the appropriate bodies for registration.

Section 30 (3) should be replaced by :

30 (3) The Workers Facilitation Center shall undertake registration directly or shall appoint any of the following bodies for purpose of registration : ( this is as per original suggestion of National Commission of Labour)

  Panchayati Raj Bodies
  Local Public Bodies
  Trade unions or Trade union Federations
  Co-operatives or Co-operative Federations
  Associations of organization such as Self Help Groups
  Non- Governmental organizations
  Any other appropriate agencies as decided by the State Board.
2. Register of beneficiaries :

    32. Every Workers Facilitation Center shall maintain a register in such form as may be prescribed showing the details of employment of     beneficiaries registered with it.
» Social Security benefits & welfare measures : Chapter III 16 :

Unorganized Sector workers face crises frequently during which they lose earning abilities and also they have to spend heavily. Therefore, they need an Integrated Group Insurance Scheme. Therefore we suggest the following clause

            16 (1) (ix)  Integrated Group Insurance Scheme
» Workers Organization :

It has been our experience that the workers of this sector are spread out and lack bargaining strength and it is very difficult to organize them. Therefore, membership based organization of workers should be formed in every part of the country and they should be given recognition and support.

In absence of workers organization it has been found that laws tend to be ineffective. To reach support linkages and resources the workers, their own membership-based organizations are the first and foremost significant part of the delivery mechanisms. Therefore we suggest the following :

  A new chapter should be added to the Bill as follows :
1.  Each Board shall encourage and facilitate the formation of associations, co-operatives, unions, federations, and          the other organization of unprotected workers and ensure their representation at all decision-making levels.

2. Representative of the workers’ organizations will be made part of implementation, planning and conflict resolution     processes.

3. Workers’ organizations will ensure participation of their members in training and education on on-going basis.
» Statement of Objects and Reasons :

The Bill should be preceded by a statement of Objects and Reasons. This should be taken from the original National Commission on Labour’s Bill as follows :

      The Bill for the unorganized sector workers’ employment and welfare should be seen as an enabling legislation that will lead to the growth of the economy, improve the quality of employment, provide a decent life to the workers and integrate them with the growing opportunities in the country. It has to be seen in a holistic way. The unorganized sector is in no way a homogeneous, independent and exclusive sector. It is dependent and linked to the organized sector and the rest of the economy.

      The proposed legislation is different from the earlier labour laws as they defined ‘industries’ and those working in the ‘industries’ were ‘workers’, hence covered by protective labour legislation. In the proposed legislation, the basic approach of the legislation is recognition and protection for all types of workers regardless of industry, occupation, work status, and personal characteristics.

The essence of the proposed legislation is removal of poverty of the working population of India through improving their productivity, quality of work, enhancing income earning abilities and increasing its bargaining power. It aims to provide a better quality of employment through :

(i) an income above poverty level
(ii) measures of social insurance for sickness, old age and crisis
(iii) and prospects of career advancement.
  For all the above, in the current budget, Rupees Ten thousand Crores have to be sanctioned for the unorganized sector.
» Memorandum 1
Presented to : Honourable Labour Minister Shri. Shaheb Singh Verma
Presented by : Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), Ahmedabad
Place : Ahmedabad
Date : 24th January 2003
Subject : Representation of SEWA as a Central Trade Union

Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) is a trade union for the women workers in the Unorganized Sector. It was established in 1972. SEWA is organizing these women in 5 states of India, namely, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Bihar and Delhi. And today its total membership is 700,000, which includes the agricultural workers, readymade garment workers, salt workers, tobacco processing workers, workers working in small factories, bidi workers, agarbatti workers, paper pickers, head loaders, contract workers, construction workers, kite makers, embroidery workers, and others.

Unorganized workers always remain invisible because they do not get representation in any National forums. Nevertheless, SEWA has contributed effectively in many committees, national and international, on work related issues and concerns that affect the women workers, and our important contribution has been appreciated.


SEWA has been demanding for representation for many years. The Labour Ministry informed us that to get national representation, a Central trade union should have 500,000 membership and should be working in minimum 4 states of India. Today our membership is 700,000 and we are organizing in 5 different states. And most probably we are the largest membership based primary union of India.

Therefore we request that representation of SEWA as a Central Trade Union at the earliest.

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