A YEAR after demonetisation, the labour sector in Pune seems to have shrugged off the ‘ill-effects’ of the period. Labour unions have rubbished talk of large-scale job loss in the sector and point to the secondary benefit of the move which, they say, has helped in eliminating the middlemen.
Soon after demonetisation, labourers in Pune’s industrial sector had complained about a delay in payment. Small and medium-scale industries had also lamented the loss of productive hours as labourers, like people from the rest of the country, were forced to queue up outside banks to deposit and withdraw money.
The automobile sector had reported low sales, and some industry tycoons had questioned the rationale behind the move. With consumption taking a hit, job losses, especially in the informal sector, were reported from various parts of the country.
Labour unions, however, painted a different picture about how note ban had affected them. Dilip Pawar, working president of the Shramik Ekta Mahasangh, an umbrella organisation of labour unions in the district, claimed that note ban has had no lingering effect on the labour sector. “During the initial phases, all of us had gone through the same set of problems, like… delayed payments, but now things have settled down to quite an extent,” he said.
Pawar claimed that Pune’s industrial sector had not seen any job loss post demonetisation and most of the industrial units were running to full capacity, and in double shifts. Similarly, Ravindra Deshpande, general secretary of the RSS-backed labour union Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, said there had been no permanent job losses in the sector.
When queried if there were any instances of lockouts or closure of establishments post note ban, the office of the additional labour commissioner in Pune replied in the negative.
Both Pawar and Deshpande pointed out that the move has, in fact, helped the labour sector indirectly. In the days after demonetisation, as cash was in short supply, many companies were forced to take the banking route to pay their labourers, including those on contract. The unions claimed that this had stopped the “fleecing of labourers on contract, or the process of middlemen taking a cut from the salaries of labourers”.
“Earlier, the labourer used to get about Rs 7,000 out of his promised salary of Rs 10,000, as the middleman used to pocket the rest. Since companies have started paying labourers through the banking channel, this practice has stopped,” said Pawar.
During the period of demonetisation, the labour unions had also helped labourers open bank accounts. Pawar said the Shramik Ekta Mahasangh had helped employees in about 50 companies, while Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh had helped open about 10-15,000 new accounts. Banks and labour unions had also teamed up to hold special camps, to help labourers become part of the banking system, said Deshpande.
Members of small-scale industries, a traditionally cash-intensive sector, said they have managed to leave the demonetisation phase behind them. Sandeep Belsare, president of the Pimpri Chinchwad Small Scale Industries Association, claimed that the industries were now facing the problem of late payment due to the Goods and Services Tax.