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CII boss for flexible labour laws

By Suveen K Sinha in New Delhi
April 24, 2006 13:14 IST

The Confederation of Indian Industry has called for 'depoliticisation' of companies' worker unions and power to the management to lay off workers during downturns.

"There should be a legislation that the leadership of worker unions must come from within the company's work force.... Worker unions' leadership should be depoliticised," R Seshasayee, who took over last week as the president of CII, told Business Standard.

According to him, flexibility in labour laws is not crucial in times of high growth, but critical when growth is uneven. Therefore, the need for flexible employment. Some workers would be laid off for a while if there was a downturn, without being struck off the rolls permanently, he added.

This flexibility, he said, could encourage companies to hire more regular workers, instead of relying on workers employed by contractors. "Labour should not be treated as a holy cow. We should be brave enough to deal with these issues," Seshasayee added.

He, however, said that in recent instances of labour unrest in Indian industry, management could be at fault. These strikes could not be taken to be connected with one another. "We have to look at individual cases. The management may have been insensitive to workers' needs in some. That cannot be ruled out," said Seshasayee.

CII's human resources committee is gearing up to look at the increasing instances of strikes to address the issue. Seshasayee pointed out that reducing the number of mandays lost to strikes was in the interest of industry.

He plans to urge the government to make infrastructure projects bankable. It so happens that many infrastructure projects yield good social and economic returns, but not attractive accounting returns.

"For instance, the state has to provide drinking water. But if it is an information technology corridor, it is possible to package the drinking water project in a way that it becomes attractive for private investors," he said.

The backbone of the project could be government grants. On top of that, the project could be awarded to the bidder who sought the lowest grant.

Industry associations, according to Seshasayee, have to contribute to nation building and inclusive growth. "Inclusive growth can increase the size of the market. Ultimately, it helps us," he said.

For instance, CII is active in trying to deal with HIV-AIDS. This is in the interest of industry too, as it prevents loss of mandays that could occur if there were more workers affected by the disease.

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Suveen K Sinha in New Delhi
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