While Tamil Nadu Construction Workers Welfare Board has accumulated over Rs 1000 crores as cess for the social security of construction workers, the increased retrictions and inaccessibility to welfare schemes has workers and unions fuming. According to Labour Department, the cess received between 2011 and 2015 is over 330 crore Rupees, where as the disbursement is merely 163 crore rupees for the same period. The state of other welfare boards(Tamil Nadu has over 14 welfare boards providing social security for unorganized sector workers) is much worse as they do not have a cess for social security.
Jayanthi, a tailor registered under Tamil Nadu Manual Workers Welfare board and a mother of 2 young children lives in Korukkupettai, North Chennai. The Labour Welfare board office was situated in Mint of North Chennai and was easier for her to access when applying for labour welfare schemes. The Mint office in predominanly working class neighborhood of North Chennai has been closed and moved to Anna Nagar, in East Chennai. More over, the Labour Department has also made it mandatory for workers to appear for not only registration but availing of labour welfare schemes. The restrictions in application of social security in tandem with consolidation of Labour Departments has severely restricted the access of social security for the unorganized sector workers in the city.
These issues and other demands were raised in a gherao protest organized by AITUC on July 21st in Chennai. Comrade S. Moorthy, North Chennai District Secretary of AITUC reflected that since the start of the labour welfare boards in 20 years, there has been no increase in the compensation of various welfare schemes. These include Rs 1 lakh for accidental death assistance, Rs50000 for natural death assistance, Rs 2000 for funeral assistance and Rs 6000 for maternity assistance. AITUC has demanded Rs 5 lakh for natural death, Rs 10 lakh for deaths due to accidents, 1 lakh Rs for marriage assistance, Rs 60000 for maternity assistance and Rs 25000 for funeral assistance. Comrade Moorthy also said that even the existing assitances are not paid timely as applications are rejected on flimsy excuses and workers asked to appear in person for every review. He condemned the sidelining of unions in the functioning of welfare boards and said this only makes the system more opaque.
Srinivasan, South Chennai District President of AITUC said that the ‘state Government collects cess from construction works mainly for providing welfare to the construction workers. Not disbursing what is workers’ funds to workers is tantamount to cheating’. Over 50 workers and union representatives participated in the gherao. Protestes were also held through out Tamil Nadu.