Govt sets up control room to address worker issues during Covid-19 lockdown

The Union labour and employment ministry has set up control rooms across the country to receive and address on a war-footing, the grievances of workers who have been denied wages or retrenched during the national

The labour ministry has made public a list of 60 officers — essentially labour commissioners in 20 regions across the country — along with their e-mail address and contact numbers. They will deal with distress calls from workers who are working under the ‘central sphere’.

This comes as a time when there is growing discontentment among workers living in shelter homes or relief camps in various states. On Friday, hundreds of migrant workers from such camps in Surat, Gujarat took to the streets to demand logistical arrangements for them to return home. The workers, who went to the extent of torching vegetable carts, also asked for wages to be paid by their employers.

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“We understand that the workers are going through a period of stress and as the extends, they will be more anxious about the prevailing situation.

The control rooms are aimed to listen to their problems and address them at the earliest,” a senior labour and employment ministry official said, requesting anonymity. The official added that even the micro, small and medium enterprises have shown concerns of poor cash flow due to a in paying salaries to workers.

Ever since the 21-day national lockdown was put in place on March 25, the office of the chief labour commissioner under the labour ministry has been receiving distress calls from workers complaining about retrenchment or a delay in receiving wages.

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Few days back, chief labour commissioner Rajan Verma told his regional officers to follow up rigorously on all complaints and even took a status report. In some cases, even employers who had deducted wages or laid off workers were contacted.

However, the CLC can only monitor the activities of industries belonging to the central sphere. This includes all central public and private sector units in the civil aviation, banking and finance, telecommunications, insurance, ports, dock, and mines sectors.

The government, in an order issued on March 29, has made it mandatory for firms to pay wages to workers on due dates during the lockdown period. The labour ministry has advised businesses to not go for retrenchment or layoffs.