Royal Commission on Labour in India: Report(1929)||
The tea industry, because of its past experience and its high degree of organisation, should be capable of devising a practicable scheme of wage-fixing machinery. We therefore recommend that at this stage Government should invite the industry to submit proposals for its consideration and approval. Government will then be in a position to make a final decision regarding the framing of the statute embodying the type of machinery considered to be most suitable for the purpose in view. On this point we do not propose to anticipate the decision by any-specific recommendations, but we would call attention to certain cardinal points in the setting up of machinery of this kind. The main principle is the association of representatives of both employers and workers in the constitution of the machinery. Such representatives should be included in equal numbers, with an independent element chosen as far as possible in agreement with, or after consultation with, the representatives of both parties. We anticipate some difficulty here, in consequence of the absence of any organisation which can represent the interests of the workers. We do not, however, regard this as a sufficient reason for not adhering in the main to this ideal, with certain variations. The Wages Boards under the Ceylon ordinance are of this type and consist of five members in all—an independent chairman, two employer and two worker representatives. There the representation of labour is met by the appointment of kanganis. Not only do the exact equivalent of these-men not exist in Assam, but we do not regard either them or their nearest prototype—the sardar— as being the most satisfactory type of labour representative available for a service of such vital importance to the workers' welfare.
The principle that " outsiders " may represent the illiterate workman until he has reached a more advanced stage, when he can select those who shall represent him is generally accepted. It will be necessary for Government to appoint disinterested persons, who are neither officials nor employers, to represent the interests of the garden workers on the Board. If and when workers' organisations come into being, these outsiders could be replaced by workers' representatives in the true sense of the term. We suggest that any Board or Boards should be large enough to ensure the representation of minority interests among the employers where these exist, but should be kept as small as is consistent with requirements, both in order to ensure expeditious working and to obviate difficulties in the way of finding sufficient persons to represent the workers' interests Further, it is not necessary, and will probably be found undesirable, to include any independent members other than the chairman, who should be a Government nominee and preferably an official of standing likely to command the confidence of both sides and hold the balance evenly between them. In the event of more than one Board being set up, it may be found preferable, in the interests of uniformity and co-ordination; to have a common chairman for all Boards. This will be a matter for consideration by Government and the industry. The members should not receive any salary as such, but, as in Ceylon, should merely be compensated on a fixed scale determined by the local Government for out-of-pocket expenses, which should be confined to the period of the sittings. The only other point we would stress is that, in view of the large number of women and children employed on plantations, it is desirable to ensure that the Board or Boards should include at least one woman.