Labour Investigation Committee (1946)||
The Royal Commission on Labour recommended the employment of Labour Officers in industrial establishments with a view to eliminating the evils of recruitment through jobbers or contractors, and, what is more important, as a means of establishing healthy contact between employers and enquiring into the grievances of workers. "His position", they. said, "should enable him to see that the workers' case is adequately presented, and he can act as their advocate when he is convinced that remedial measures are required1" The Commission further remarked: "He should be subordinated to no one except the general manager of the factory, and should be carefully selected. Special technical qualifications are not essential for the appointment, though a general knowledge of the processes is necessary. Integrity, personality, energy, the gift of understanding individuals and linguistic facility are the main qualities required.2"
Since the Royal Commission made this recommendation, the institution of labour officer has come to stay. The cotton textile industry in Bombay, for example, has employed a large number of labour officers. In the Bombay City, 34 mills out of 47 have labour officers to enquire into grievances of workers. Likewise, in other textile centres there are labour officers in some large units. In the larger units in several other industries like cement, matches, chemicals, paper, jute, etc., also there are labour officers. In seasonal factories and in unregulated factories, as also in plantations, however they are non-existent. In such factories complaints and grievances are brought directly before the manager by the workers and the manager is supposed to enquire into them. In the mining industry, the labour officer is less in vogue and although there is a labour superintendent in the Assam Oil Company at Digboi and a labour welfare officer in the Kolar Gold Fields, there are no such men in the iron ore, salt, manganese, or mica mining. In the mines and in plantations generally speaking, the manager is supposed to look into the complaints of the workers. In actual practice, however, complaints are brought by workers to mistries and sardars and if they are satisfied about the bona fides of the complaints and if they think that they should be brought before the manager, then only are they finally dealt with by the manager. Sometimes, the manager asks an assistant or a member of the staff or the mistry himself to look into the matter. In the South Indian plantations, managers of several estates would not listen to any complaint of a worker unless it is brought to them by or through a mistry. As a result, when the complaints are against the mistries themselves, as is often the case, the workers get no chance either to voice their grievances or to get them redressed. In the Railways, complaints of workers and staff can be brought before the workshop committees or staff councils. On the E. I. R. there is an Employment Officer, assisted by labour advisers. There are also personnel officers in some railways. In the G. I. P. Railway, there is a Liaison Officer to enquire into grievances. And on the Railways managed by Mcleod and Company, there is an officer to look after the welfares of the staff. A few factories, chiefly engineering concerns and dockyards, have works committees which regularly meet and deal with the workers' grievances.
Apart from the labour officers in industrial establishments, most Provincial Governments have Labour Officers, under the Commissioners
F.N. Report p 343 2 Report, p. 25
of Labour, to whom the workers can represent their grievances. Likewise, the Government of India has appointed, under their Chief Labour Commissioner a number of Regional Labour Commissioners and Conciliation Officers, who have been entrusted with duties of conciliation in various areas. The Government have also appointed Labour Welfare Advisers in all Ordnance "Factories.
The All-India Trade Union Congress and several other workers' organisations urge that labour officers and works committees should not be allowed to encroach on the functions of trade unions or encouraged to interfere with trade union activities and that trade unions' powers and rights to represent workers' grievances to employers or their associations should be kept intact. There is some substance in this view because very often there is a tendency amongst employers to use labour officers as a counterblast to the activities of trade unions. Enlightened employers, however, have widened the functions of their labour officers by encouraging them to undertake welfare activities with a view to the amelioration of the workers' conditions and peaceful internal settlement of disputes. Probably the surest safeguard against industrial unrest is the encouragement of well-organised trade unionism. Some employers have recognised trade unions, whether registered under law or not, but several employers still refuse to deal with trade unions in matters pertaining to the workers. In the Mysore State, Mysore Labour Act, 1942, has made it obligatory on all employers employing 100 or more workers to recognise a properly registered trade union of their workers.
The employment of labour officers to look into grievances of workers is engaging the attention of several industrial concerns, and year by year, more and more labour officers are being employed. The Indian Engineering Association has complained that considerable difficulties are felt in obtaining the services of the right type of men for this work. This undoubtedly necessitates the training of capable men for the work of labour officers. In this connection, it is interesting to note that the Millowners' Association, Bombay have a labour officers' training class, in which six months' training is given to candidates. Likewise, the Calcutta University has recently started a course of training for labour officers while the Sir Ratan Dorabaji Tata School of Social Science, Bombay, trains social workers in labour problems.