New Delhi: Asserting that its focus will be on providing descent working condition for labourers and compliance of labour laws, the government today said dialogues with trade unions on various issues will continue to bridge the gap between them and the Labour Ministry.
Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya, who today met members of various central trade unions after taking charge of his ministry recently, said the government will go ahead with already-introduced amendments in various labour laws in the forthcoming Winter Session of the Parliament.
"I have expressed to them (Unions) that the government and my ministry will be for workers' interest. The consultation process will continue. I expressed to them that my focus will be on descent working conditions and compliance of labour laws," he told reporters.
The trade unions have already announced that they will hold a massive country-wide protest on December 5 against the "anti-worker" amendments introduced by the Narendra Modi- led government.
Alleging that the government was continuing with its "unilateral" policy, trade unions have urged the Minister not to bring amendments to various labour laws without consulting them.
The Minister said the government's priority was to increase productivity, develop entrepreneurship and improve employability in the country through skill development.
He said his ministry also wants to focus on unorganised sector which cover 93 per cent of the labourers.
The Minister said the government led by Narendra Modi is committed to labour reforms but "not at the cost of the working class".
"I told them (Unions) I need cooperation of trade unions and there should be a consensus. They have expressed some reservations about labour laws. I told them the consultations and dialogues will continue and I hope that the gap between trade unions and ministry will not increase," he told reporters.
Asked if the government will push through the amendments to labour laws in the forthcoming Winter Session of the Parliament, the Minister said, "Whatever amendments which have been moved earlier, will continue."
Asked if his ministry was willing to take a re-look at the labour law amendments, the Minister said, "No, how can it be...Already in the Lok Sabha, the Apprentices Act has been passed. It has to go for Rajya Sabha."
The Lok Sabha has already passed the Apprentices (Amendment) Bill, which was opposed by trade unions and the government is likely to bring it up in the forthcoming Winter Session of the Parliament.
"I told them very clearly that national interest is very supreme for us (government). We are looking forward. We are not looking backward," he said.
Asked about concerns of trade unions, the Minister targeted the previous government and said there were long-pending issues which UPA I and II could not solve and it was a continuous process.
The Minister said he had appraised the trade unions about the various government initiatives including Shram Shakti Yojna, which is a Unified Labour Portal launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Universal Account Number and new inspection scheme.
"We feel that transparency and accountability is very important. The labour sector is mostly exploited. To control this exploitation, transparency and more accountability is needed. The country has given a mandate to BJP and NDA and people's expectation is much more, particularly the younger generations... We have to fulfil," he said.
All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), meanwhile, said it has urged the minister not to go through amendments without consulting the trade unions.
AITUC General Secretary Gurudas Dasgupta, who participated in the meeting, told PTI, "We have said that labour laws should not be changed without consulting the trade unions.
"The Minister has given us assurance. He said that let us work together and we will talk to you in the future also. We are having a dharna on December 5 all through the country," he said.
Representatives of around a dozen central trade unions attended the meeting.
The Minister also said that social security is the urgent need of the unorganised sector and elaborated that his ministry had selected 20 districts where convergence of three social security schemes -- National Swastha Bima Yojna, Aam Admi Bima Yojna and Indira Gandhi Old Age Pension Scheme-- will be done.
He said his focus will also be on skill development and his ministry will work for it in the unorganised sector.
"We will take up lot of new projects and programmes in the unorganised sector which has been totally neglected till now."