Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Labour trouble at IOC plant continues

MALAPPURAM: LPG consumers in the district never had it so bad! The long-pending contract labour issue at Indian Oil Corporation's LPG bottling plant at Chelari seems to be never-ending. And the consumers have to bear the brunt of it all.
For the last two years, there has been no high-level intervention for resolving the labour issues at the bottling plant at Chelari.

And the LPG distribution to almost 1 lakh consumers across Malabar is being interrupted frequently.

The indefinite strike launched by cylinder handling and housekeeping workers of the plant on Monday has created a fresh crisis and the move of cylinders from the plant has been completely stopped.
After loading and unloading workers of the plant launched a 'Go-Slow' strike on June 12, there is already a shortage of about 50 lakh cooking gas cylinders in Malabar districts.

The indefinite strike is going to spell trouble for about 1 lakh LPG customers in the region. The district collector K Biju will convene a meeting of IOC officials and labour contractor on Tuesday to discuss the issue.

But the employees' unions are not hopeful that the meeting will be able to reach at any helpful consensus.

The employees are demanding the implementation of wage hike decision taken in previous meetings called by the labour commissioners and district collector at various locations.

The convenor of coordination committee of unions Prince Kumar said that the contractor should be ready to give monthly salary of at least Rs 18,000 for each employee in addition to the risk allowance and other perks.

"We are not hopeful regarding the discussion on Tuesday as the contractor is yet to keep his promise regarding wage hike made in a similar meeting presided by the collector three months ago. We are demanding the intervention of chief minister on this issue," he said.

When labour strike affected the LPG distribution in Kasaragod, Kannur, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Malappuram and Palakkad districts, three months ago the IOC brought LPG to Malabar, from its Coimbatore, Mangalore and Kochi plants to resolve the issue of acute shortage of LPG here.

Normally 50 loads of LPG cylinders are being dispatched from the plant to different local-level LPG dealers on daily basis.

But, on Monday the refilling was completely stopped at the plant and the distribution from local dealers was also blocked. A local level dealer of cooking gas needs 400 to 1,500 LPG cylinders daily for distribution in their areas. The proprietor of Grace Gas Agency in Edavannapara, Malappuram district, P Bhaskaran said the strike will affect the distribution of LPG in the coming days and it will lead to strong protest by customers.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

More than 500 Indian workers have died in Qatar since 2012, figures show

As Qatar construction boom gathers pace ahead of 2022 World Cup, Indian government confirms scale of death toll

More than 500 Indian migrant workers have died in Qatar since January 2012, revealing for the first time the shocking scale of death toll among those building the infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup.
Official figures confirmed by the Indian embassy in Doha reveal that 237 Indians working in Qatar died in 2012 and 241 in 2013. A further 24 Indians have died in January 2014.

These come after the Guardian revealed last month that 185 Nepalese workers had died in Qatar in 2013, taking the total from that country to at least 382 over two years.

Human rights groups and politicians said the figures meant Fifa could not "look the other way", and should be leading demands for Qatar to improve conditions for the estimated 1.2 million migrant workers fuelling a huge construction boom.

The figures from the Indian embassy show that 233 Indian migrants died in 2010 and 239 in 2011, taking the total over four years to 974. Since the World Cup was awarded to Qatar in December 2010, there have been 717 recorded Indian deaths.

However, the Indian embassy did not provide further details on who those individuals were, their cause of death or where they worked. But analysis of the lists of dead Nepalese workers showed that more than two-thirds died of sudden heart failure or workplace accidents.

Qatar's ministry of labour and social affairs told the Guardian: "With specific regard to these new figures, we were aware that local media had previously reported some of these headline numbers, and we are clarifying them. Clearly any one death in Qatar or anywhere else is one death too many – for the workers, for their families, but also for Qataris who welcome guest workers to our country to perform valuable jobs. We are working to understand the causes of these deaths – as these statistics could include a range of circumstances including natural causes, and road safety incidents, as well as a smaller number of workplace incidents."

Nicholas McGeehan, a Gulf researcher for Human Rights Watch, said: "These figures for Indian deaths are a horrendous confirmation that it isn't just Nepalese workers who are dying in Qatar."

Jim Murphy, the shadow international development secretary, said: "Preparations for the 2022 World Cup cannot go on like this – the trickle of worrying reports from the construction sites of Qatar has become a torrent.

"Some of the practices we know are taking place in Qatar amount to forced labour, and there are widespread concerns that the death toll could reach well into the thousands if nothing is done."

Last week, a hearing at the European parliament heard from human rights groups, Fifa and other interested parties after a resolution was passed last year calling for action on the issue as construction of 2022 World Cup venues begins in earnest.

Despite the Qatar 2022 organising committee implementing a new charter relating to construction on its stadiums and the ministry of labour highlighting an expanded inspection programme, human rights groups and trade unions have repeated their call for structural change in the face of hundreds of deaths.

In November, Amnesty warned in a damning report that workers were enduring 12-hour days in sweltering conditions and living in squalid, overcrowded accommodation.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has warned that up to 4,000 workers may die before a ball is kicked in 2022 without meaningful reform of the kafala system, which ties workers to their employers, and stringent control of the myriad construction companies and subcontractors involved.

The ITUC, which has campaigned consistently for better rights for migrant workers across the Gulf, has called the publication of the charter a sham because it does not deal with structural problems created by the kafala system..

Many workers arrive in Qatar already heavily in debt, having paid huge sums to middle men to secure contracts in the fast growing Gulf state.

A senior executive at one of Qatar's largest banks told a conference in Bahrain last month that the Gulf state would spend £123bn on infrastructure projects in the next four years alone. The hosting of the World Cup is an integral part of Qatar's unprecedented 2030 National Vision building project.

There are an estimated 1.2 million migrant workers in Qatar. Those fromIndia make up 22% of the total, with a similar proportion from Pakistan. Around 16% are from Nepal, 13% from Iran, 11% from the Philippines, 8% from Egypt and 8% from Sri Lanka.

The Qatar World Cup organisers believe that by holding their own contractors to higher standards they can create momentum for change and that improved rights for workers could be one legacy benefit of hosting the tournament.

The ministry of foreign affairs has also emphasised that it is stepping up efforts to hold contractors to existing labour laws, sanctioning 2,000 companies in 2013 and a further 500 in January 2014 alone.

The statement from the Qatari ministry of labour and social affairs added: "Where any liability is found to rest with employers, the ministry …and Qatari law authorities will pursue these cases through the relevant legal channels. We have increased the number of trained labour inspectors by 25%, and continue to hire new inspectors, with over 11,500 random spot-checks of workplaces carried out in the past three months.

This, in order to enforce our existing labour laws, with the aim of the prevention of any further workplace incidents."

Law firm DLA Piper has been engaged to prepare a report on all issues surrounding Qatar's use of migrant labour, which is expected to be published next month.

But human rights groups have maintained that Qatar must prove it is serious about reforming its labour laws. Amnesty's James Lynch, who wrote last year's report, called on the Qatari and Indian authorities to provide more detail on the circumstances of the deaths.

"This issue is not restricted to one country of origin," said Lynch. "It is critical that the Qatari government works urgently with the governments of migrant workers' countries of origin to investigate the main causes of migrant workers' deaths and develops a transparent plan to address these, particularly where deaths relate to industrial accidents, work conditions and access to healthcare."

Fifa has asked Qatar to provide evidence of meaningful progress in reforming labour law but the president of world football's governing body, Sepp Blatter, has said its status as hosts is not under threat.

Murphy, who will travel to Nepal and Qatar in the coming weeks, said: "Fifa cannot simply look the other way. Football's governing body should be leading demands for change, not dragging its feet."

Informal labour: Domestic workers to get training, rights education

File photo of child laborers. PHOTO:FILE
The Women Development Department in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the All Pakistan Women’s Association (APWA) on February 19 launched Decent Work for Domestic Workers (DW4DW), a skill development initiative to train 1,000 women at the APWA’s premises in Lahore.
Current situation
APWA Chairperson Ruhi Sayyid said, “There is a lack of reliable data…There are approximately 8.5 million domestic workers in Pakistan, most of them women…they also include a large number of boys and girls.”
She said domestic workers were a significant portion of the informal economy. These workers remain unregulated, are not covered by labour laws…are also vulnerable to all kinds of exploitation, she said.
Programme Manager Durre Shahwar told The Express Tribune that the programme aimed to provide high quality training to women in communication, health, safety and security in domestic work environment, personal health and safety, planning, organising and managing their work.
The APWA’s premises will be modified into a training facility and four staff members will be trained as co-facilitators to conduct similar training sessions in the future. She said upon completing training, the participants will be registered with placement service providers.
Shahwar said the women will also be taught basic principles of hygiene and how to clean and maintain bedrooms. She said the programme aimed at training women as certified domestic workers with enhanced capacities to manage household tasks.
She said they also aimed to establish a data bank of trainees and link them to placement service providers, initiate a legislative framework for domestic workers and advocate for the ratification of the ILO convention on domestic workers. “We hope to engage women parliamentarians in this programme,” said Shahwar.
She said at least 90 per cent of the trainees will be able to get jobs that will raise their income levels by 30 to 50 per cent.
She said the women would also be trained in occupational health and safety, personal hygiene and grooming, time management, protection against various types of harassment and communication and negotiation skills, and made aware of their rights and responsibilities.
The APWA will also advocate minimum wage legislation for domestic workers and mandatory written contracts between employees and employers specifying responsibilities, work hours, time of wage payment, benefits and notice periods, she said.
Advocate Shamsa Ali, head of legal aid at the APWA, said in 2011 the ILO had adopted the Domestic Workers’ Convention 189. She said the C-189 called for specific protection to domestic workers. The standards specified under it had helped create a momentum for the recognition of domestic workers as employees with salient rights, just like any other worker.
Salient features of the convention include the promotion and protection of human rights for all domestic workers, respect for fundamental principles and rights at work, freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, protection against all forms of abuse, harassment and violence, fair terms of employment and decent living conditions, reasonable working hours, weekly rest of at least 24 consecutive hours, a limit on in-kind payment and clear information on the terms and conditions of employment.
Ali said if Pakistan ratified the C-189, the status of domestic workers could be enhanced. It would also reflect well on the government showing its commitment to human and workers’ rights and women’s empowerment.
She said several countries had started changing policies and laws on domestic workers. In Pakistan, a bill has been drafted and recently submitted to the Senate. Ali said the bill carried elaborate provisions on age, contract signing, minimum wage, social security and formation of associations or trade unions. “This is a welcome step, but if we really want to make a difference, we need a profound change in attitude towards the profession,” she said.

India needs to relax labour laws to push growth: OECD

NEW DELHI: India needs to reconsider its overly stringent labour regulations to return to higher growth trajectory while globally the world needs to boost productivity and lower trade barriers to avoid a new era of slow growth and stubbornly high unemployment, the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) warned on Friday.
In its 2014 study on "Going for Growth", OECD said momentum on reforms had slowed in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, with much of it now piecemeal and incremental.

"The widespread deceleration in productivity since the crisis could presage the beginning of a new low-growth era," warned Pier Carlo Padoan, deputy secretary-general and chief economist at the Paris-based OECD.

"These concerns, already prevalent among advanced OECD countries for some time, now encompass emerging-market economies and are fuelled also by high unemployment and falling labour force participation in many countries." Commenting on India, the report said India needs to address its infrastructure shortfalls, pervasive state control in business activities and unequal access to quality education.

"India is experiencing a slowdown in economic growth since 2012. In order to maintain robust growth, it needs to reconsider overly stringent labour regulations which hinder job creation in the formal sector and leave most workers with no formal labour contract and social coverage," it said.

According to OECD, a more inclusive education system would help reducing severe poverty and inequality, while labour market reform would help reduce informality in India. India's GDP growth stood at 9% in the 11th plan (2007-12). It fell to 4.5% in 2012-13 and is estimated to be only slightly better in the current fiscal at 4.9%.

However, the target for the entire 12th five year plan period (2012-17) is 8%. OECD has been recommending India on issues related to sectors like education, labour, trade infrastructure and finance.

Some of these include, increasing the efficiency of education services, increase formal employment in labour market, reducing barriers to foreign trade and investment, promoting more effective infrastructure-related regulation and undertaking wide-ranging financial sector reforms such as easing bank portfolio restriction and allowing greater participation of foreign investors in financial services sector.

"However, the notable reforms in the country in the past two years include addressing the infrastructure bottlenecks, the reform of the land acquisition law and the relaxation of FDI restrictions in various sectors, including in multi-brand retail and civil aviation," it said.
Source: http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2014-02-22/news/47581783_1_oecd-pier-carlo-padoan-labour

Monday, January 20, 2014

60 bonded labour rescued

MEDAK: Human and civil rights activists have rescued a group of 60 alleged bonded labour from a brick kiln in Medak district. The workers including women and children were shifted to temporary shelter at Old Boys Hostel in Yeldurthi here under police protection. 

According to Tathagata Sengupta of Solidarity Committee for Brickkiln Workers' Union, the rescue efforts were initiated jointly by Brickkiln Workers' Union of Ranga Reddy district and Solidarity Committee for Brick-kiln Workers of Andhra Pradesh. Sengupta alleged that about 60 people were illegally engaged as bonded labour at a brick kiln near Koppulapally village of Yeldurthi mandal. He alleged that the workers were regularly beaten up by the management. 

A fact-finding team visited the kiln on January 17. The team comprised human rights and civil liberties activists . The workers told the team about regular use of violence on them. They were brought to Koppulapally from Nuapada, Bargar, and Balangir in Odisha in October after payment of Rs 10,000 to 15,000 per worker. 

"Once they reached the area, some of them were employed for harvesting crops on the owner's fields, and later in preparing the kiln. They are not supposed to do either of the works. Now they are employed in the brick-making work. Even the sick were not spared as a pregnant woman was made to work. Those who protested against such practices are attacked ," said Sengupta. He said the worst incidence of crude violence occurred five days ago when Muni Ram, one of the workers, was brutally beaten up and taken away by the management. The whereabouts of Muni Ram are not known. A number of children in the age group of 6 to 14 are also employed at the kiln.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Over 5 lakh Indian workers to benefit from Saudi labour law

CHENNAI: More than five lakh Indian workers, employed as drivers, house boys, cleaners, house managers in Saudi Arabia, will soon be governed by a new Saudi labour law and will enjoy the privileges and rights granted under the local regulations.

The recent signing of a labour agreement between minister for overseas Indian affairs Vayalar Ravi and Saudi labour minister Adel Fakieh will streamline the labour market and keep touts and unscrupulous travel agents, who cheat innocent labourers, at bay.
 Sibi George, deputy chief of mission at the Indian embassy in Riyadh, told TOI on Friday that presently the mission had given food and accommodation to 130 Indian nationals who have legal cases against them and want to fly back to India. 

The diplomat said around 1.4 million Indians had corrected their residency and legal status and 1,41,000 left Saudi Arabia since April, taking advantage of the concessions.
Source: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2014-01-10/india/46065857_1_saudi-labour-law-adel-fakieh-sibi-george

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Woes of migrant labour

The widespread exploitation of migrant labourers in Qatar threatens to undermine whatever prestige the country may have earned by winning the right to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. In September this year, the Guardian had shone light on the deplorable treatment of contract labourers — mostly from the Indian subcontinent — engaged in World Cup-related construction projects. Since then, Amnesty International has meticulously documented serial violations of Qatar’s labour laws by private contractors. Migrant workers from Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are at the mercy of their Qatari employers, thanks to the harsh systems in place to check illegal immigration. Qatar’s “sponsorship” law designates private contractors as the custodians of their employees’ travel documents until they are issued a valid residence permit. Many migrant labourers are yet to receive their passports back. What is more, Qatari law requires the “sponsor” to issue supporting documents for an “exit visa”. Without workers’ unions to represent their case, access to justice for foreign labourers remains elusive. Amnesty’s report suggested many of them were yet to receive their salaries. While the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, the nodal agency for World Cup affairs, has acknowledged these reports, the country needs to ensure that its economic growth does not ride on the inhuman treatment of migrants.
New Delhi would do well to express its concerns to Qatari officials about the plight of Indian labourers. For the most part, India has been restrained in its diplomatic overtures on labour-related issues in West Asia; this is not surprising since remittances from migrant labourers are the main source of income for hundreds of thousands of families back home. That New Delhi and Riyadh could coordinate their actions and successfully regularise the stay of most Indian labourers in Saudi Arabia ahead of the ‘Nitaqat’ deadline, however, suggests that such issues are eminently resolvable. India should consider its migrant workforce in West Asia as an asset rather than as a vulnerable constituency. Countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia have sought to raise their profile by positioning themselves as global commercial hubs. In pursuit of this aim, they have invested considerably in infrastructure projects. Hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup figures prominently in Qatar’s efforts to boost its marketability. Needless to say, Indian labour is very much in demand for the successful completion of these projects. The reports from the Guardian and Amnesty International serve as a reminder to West Asia that it cannot take migrant labour for granted. South Asian countries must insist their citizens are granted their rights and benefits as per international obligations.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

I Want To Know What Are My Legal Rights

I am an Indian worker and have been working as a waiter in a restaurant for the last 4 years (since February 2009). My company does not follow the labour law, so there is no notice period, no service, no indemnity, no paid leave, no weekly off … practically nothing. I am getting only my salary without any other benefits. I was hired directly from India on a commercial visit visa and then within three months I was transferred to a company visa. I am not happy with my current job.

So I have been trying to find a better job in another company. But the problem is that I can’t get a release from my company because they do not release their employees, and also I don’t know about my contract as our company did not give us a copy. I want to know what are my legal rights and how can I get a release from my company without any trouble as also they are said to have a very big wasta in the Kuwaiti government.

Name withheld 

Answer: The company can’t stop you from resigning because you have already spent more than the required three years for such a transfer if you are hired from abroad. That is the law. If the company refuses to release you, file a case immediately with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour, through the Labour Office in your area. If you feel that your sponsor is using wasta (influence) to obstruct the proceedings, you can also file a case in court against your firm. While filing the case with the Labour Office, don’t forget to claim all your rights—money for all the days off, weekends, overtime etc for which you were not paid.