Vol. XLII No. 03 January 21, 2018

Govt Proposes Replacing Permanent Employment With ‘Fixed Term Employment’; CITU Opposes

J S Majumdar

THE BJP government at the Centre has planned ‘employment generation’ by replacing each permanent employment by a number of fixed term employments in all sectors of industries and services. Consider this, a permanent employee remaining 30 years in service till retirement may be replaced by six or more fixed term employees each for every five years or less. The central government issued a draft notification on January 8, 2018 on the amendment to the Industrial Employment (Standing Order) Central Rules, proposing the introduction of fixed term employment in all sectors, and gave 30 days’ public notice.

In response to the notification, CITU general secretary Tapan Sen, in a letter on January 10, accused the labour and employment ministry of surreptitiously issuing the notification without caring for and contrary to the usual practice of holding discussion with central trade unions (CTUs) prior to the introduction of such amendments in labour laws and rules.

A similar amendment to the central rules was introduced on December 10, 2003 by the then BJP government despite united opposition by the CTUs. However, in the face of workers’ countrywide opposition and protest actions, the government had to rescind it through a gazette notification in 2007.  

The BJP-led government again tried to introduce the fixed term employment in all sectors through a similar notification on 29 April, 2015. At that time too, the CITU and other central trade unions strongly protested. The government did not proceed further on the matter, after all central trade unions served a joint notice of countrywide workers general strike on September 2, 2015, in pursuance of their 12-point common charter of demands.

As a prelude to the present move, the government made amendment to the rules for fixed term employment in apparel manufacturing sector by a notification on October 7, 2016, despite opposition from the CITU and other trade unions. The government at that time took the plea that “the decision would facilitate employment of workers in apparel manufacturing on fixed term basis in the backdrop of seasonal nature of the sector”. This is what the labour ministry stated to the leaders of the central trade unions and later in a press note.

However, the BJP government’s real intention became clear later when it proposed replacing “fixed term employment in apparel manufacturing sector” with “fixed term employment” in the draft notification.

Existing rules, after the 2016 amendment, have classified workmen as “Permanent, Probationers, Badlis, Temporary, Casual, Apprentices and Fixed-Term Employment in Apparel Manufacturing Sector”. With the proposed amendment now, the workmen would be classified as “Permanent, Probationers, Badlis, Temporary, Casual, Apprentices and Fixed Term Employment”.

The proposed amendments have proviso that these fixed term employees’ “hours of work, wages, allowances and other benefits shall not be less than that of a permanent workman”. Fine, but this is proportionate to the period of service. That is, each fixed time employee shall begin at the entry point of the service with usual probation, confirmation and remuneration as a beginner.

In his letter, Tapan Sen gave example of the employees of Alliance Air, the subsidiary of Air India, who were recruited in fixed term employment and are deprived of similar pay and facilities as those in Air India. Repeated letters of CITU to Air India management remain unanswered. That is an example of same wages and facilities of permanent and fixed time employees!

The very temporary character of employment makes the job security fragile for fixed term employees and the present move of the government is only for ensuring ‘ease of doing business’ for the corporate sector. The CITU strongly opposed the proposed amendments.