The Delhi government recently held a meeting, attended by representatives of 26 states and union territories (UTs), to oppose an amendment in the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996.
The amendment will give the Centre the right to appoint the chairperson of the state advisory committee, which oversees the functioning of the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board.
According to sources, the government is planning to approach the Supreme Court against the amendment and it will present the minutes of the meeting with other state governments to bolster its case.
However, Delhi Labour Minister Gopal Rai said he will seek an appointment with Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya to resolve the issue.
Rai, the chairperson of the Delhi Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board, said some BJP-ruled states had also opposed the amendment.
“The appointment of the chairperson of the board has been a state subject. How can anyone, who is an outsider, be more accountable or have more understanding about issues of construction workers than someone from the state,” added Rai.
The minister said if the Centre did not listen to objections by the state government over the amendment, then senior bureaucrats who were secretaries of various welfare boards, as well as representatives of workers’ unions, would join hands to form a Joint Struggle Committee.
“We will also urge labour ministers from various states to be part of the committee and we will initiate a movement against the amendment,” said Rai.
In a meeting held Friday and attended by bureaucrats and union representatives, a proposal to allow the board to utilise 5 per cent of its budgetary allocation, to carry out administrative reforms, was unanimously passed, said the minister.
The states and UTs that participated in the meeting, according to a release by the Delhi government, were “Goa, Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Puducherry, Odisha, Uttarakhand, Chattisgarh, Bihar, Tripura, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Delhi, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu etc”.
As per the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996, the state advisory committee comprises a chairperson, appointed by the state government, two members of the legislature, a member nominated by the Centre and others, including representatives of employers, workers, association of architects and insurance firms. However, Section 60 of the Act gives power to the Centre to issue directions about the composition of the board.
Principal Secretary (Labour) in Uttar Pradesh government, Anita Bhatnagar Jain, who is also the chairperson of the state board of construction workers, attended the meeting. “We did send a representative to Delhi and have decided to oppose the central government’s move,” said UP Labour Minister Shahid Manzoor.
Shashi Bala Gulati, additional chief secretary in Haryana government’s labour department, said, “We sent a representative for the meeting , but I cannot divulge any more details on the meeting at this stage.”