Maharashtra’s labour sector saw no major upheaval last year, when the state recorded the lowest number of industrial disputes since 2013, as per data from the state Economic Survey, which was released on Thursday.
A record of industrial disputes is maintained by the Commissioner of Labour and its officers also adjudicate in such cases. In 2017, as many as 118 such disputes were reported, as against the 193 recorded disputes of 2013. The data shows that 660 workers participated in strikes and lock-outs in 2017, while 962 workers participated in industrial disputes in 2013.
The dip in the number of industrial disputes may point to a salubrious industrial atmosphere in the state, but labour unions say things are not quite as they seem.
Ravindra Deshpande, general secretary of the RSS-backed Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), said the number of industrial disputes has dipped as the number of permanent employees has reduced. “Before liberalisation, about 80 per cent of the labour force comprised permanent employees and 20 per cent were contractual staff. But the ratio has changed since then… today, as permanent employees are fewer in number, they don’t usually want to get involved in strikes or lock-outs,” he said.
On the changing nature of the labour sector, Deshpande said, “The Labour Commissionerate and other bodies were pro-labour, but they have increasingly turned pro-management since liberalisation”.
Vacancies in labour courts is another major reason behind the changing numbers, as they delay the resolution of industrial dispute cases, which makes many labourers think twice before any action. Figures from the Economic Survey also show that the number of operational factories in Maharashtra has fallen by thousands.
In 2014, the state had 36,803 factories, while three years later, in 2017, that number has come down to 34,769. Meanwhile, the number of persons registered with skill development, entrepreneurship and employment guidance centres, who are waiting for placement, seems to be increasing. In 2013, 30,34,800 people were registered in these centres, and in 2017, as many as 38,19,600 such people were seeking employment.