Plywood Units Employing Unregistered Migrant Workers

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   (2012-06-28 00:00:00)

KOCHI:Even as the labour department is going ahead with the registration of migrant workers in the district under the Inter State Migrant Workers (ISMW) Act to ensure their welfare, the migrant labourer-intensive plywood industry has so far refused to comply with the rules regarding registration.

The labour department has made registration under the ISMW Act a pre-requisite for principal employers engaging migrant workers in their project site. So far the department has registered 327 such employers covering 11,285 migrant workers.

However, this does not include a single unit from the plywood industry compared to other migrant labourer-intensive sectors like the construction industry.

Registered employers can employ contractors and issue them certificates authorizing them to recruit a specific number of migrant workers for their projects. Contractors should in turn apply with the labour department for the license along with the certificate issued by the principal employer and a security deposit of Rs. 1,000 for each migrant worker they plan to recruit. The license is valid for a year and has to be renewed thereafter. So far, 288 contractors have taken license covering 9,836 migrant workers.

K. Abdul Kareem, secretary of Sawmill Owners and Plywood Manufacturers Association with a membership of 1,050 units in Perumbavur and other suburban taluks in the district,that the association is not adamant about avoiding ISMW registration. But he questioned the rationale of registration for a highly floating workforce many of whom work only long enough to earn money to buy a mobile phone or to meet their daily expenses and choose to leave at their whim.

Labour department sources said that plywood industry members often cited the absence of a contractor, who could be held responsible for issues related to the workforce in the recruitment of migrant workers, for avoiding registration. “We are not particular about employing migrants but we go for them as no local workers are available for our work. We rely on agents who source migrant workers on a commission basis and then disappear,” Mr. Kareem said.

The labour department said that things have vastly improved over the last couple of months before which they were not even permitted to enter the area to conduct inspections.

After a few conciliatory and awareness sessions, the department officials can now at least conduct inspections to check on the welfare of migrant labourers employed by the industry.