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WB Govt Mulling Ways To Prevent Strikes

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Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had recently sought an end to the 'bandh culture' in the state in the interest of industrialisation.

"The West Bengal government, through a new labour policy, will help labourers understand the advantage of having a discussion to solve industrial disputes instead of calling a strike on trivial issues," Labour Minister Purnendu Bose told PTI here.

"Militant trade unionism led to the closure of many industries in the erstwhile Left Front regime," Bose, a former Naxalite leader who joined the Trinamool Congress after taking part in Singur movement, said.

"Irresponsible trade unionism will not be tolerated.

Right to strike is the last resort, but cannot be be misused," he said.

"If a factory closes down, the workers are affected the most. The new government believes in negotiations to keep factory gates open," Bose, who is also a trade union leader said.

He pointed out that strike ballot was essential before an industrial action, which was not followed.

"In a number of cases, strike ballot rules are not followed before going on strike. This cannot continue," he said.

Noting that there were 20 to 22 labour laws and the entire labour rules needed to be reviewed, Bose said, "We have already studied the labour policies of Maharashtra and Haryana and this will help us formulate the new labour policy."

Speaking against unfair labour practises, he said there were instances when managements did not attend negotiations.

"Laws should be amended to force the management to attend tripartite meetings to be convened by the government. We will take up with the Indian government the need to make necessary amendments in the Industrial Disputes Act for the purpose," he said.

Stressing that loopholes have to be plugged, he said sometimes the managements declare suspension of work instead of lock-out. "Fourteen days notice is required in respect of declaring a lock-out," he said.

On the IT sector, the minister said though formally it was covered by labour laws, they were violated.

He said that employees in the sector worked for 12 hours a day without getting overtime payment.

"There is need to increase the recess time for the employees as also to look into the job allotment and job pattern," he said.

Observing that shifts sometimes tended to stretch to 18 hours, he asked, "Why should there not be three shifts in a day instead of two shifts?"

Bose said that in many call centres and BPO establishments, employees were compelled to work only in night-shifts.

"I am in discussion with the minister for industry and IT Partha Chatterjee to formulate working norms to make the working condition humane for employees," he said.

On closed industrial units and those that had stopped working recently, Bose said he had asked his officials to prepare a status report on all closed units.

"The Left Front government failed to prepare a comprehensive database on the number of closed units and the workers involved. We are trying to gauge the extent of the problem and intervene accordingly."

Noting that the interest of the working class was not being protected in a globalised economy, he said, "Their social security is getting weakened. All of these issues will be taken care of."

The minister said the state government plans to take stringent steps against those defaulting in payment of provident fund, gratuity and employee state insurance dues to workers.

Pointing out that 150 FIRs had been filed in to PF default cases, mostly pertaining to the jute industry, he said, "The government plans to strengthen the machinery for recovery of PF and gratuity dues from defaulters."

He said separate cells have been set up in the Labour Ministry to deal with PF and gratuity dues cases and the PF commissioner asked to take necessary steps.