National Commission on Labour (1967)||
29.24 The incidence of casual labour is determined by the nature of the task to be performed. In engineering industry, casual labour is employed to fill vacancies caused by absenteeism and temporary pressure of work. Employment of casual labour is a common feature in the Railways, the Public Works Departments, both Central and State, the State Electricity Corporations and employments in the private sector where the nature of work is similar.
29.25 Employment of casual labour in several categories of work is well recognised and not objected to. It is taken exception to mainly when such labour is continually employed for long periods to circumvent the provisions of law, which confer benefits to permanent workers through better working conditions, more amenities, and the like, and what is more, when used deliberately to restrict the scope for regular employment. Though de-casualisation has made some headway in State Government Departments, Railways and Ports and Docks and some industrial centres where several units of the same industry operate, there is still a large volume of casual labour which is engaged for varying lengths of time; not in all cases are they kept casual for bona fide reasons.
29.26 Though casual labour comes under the scope of some labour enactments relating to wages and regulation of hours of work and conditions of service, it is deprived of the advantages accruing from legislation which stipulates continuous employment for being eligible. Casual labour is thus denied annual leave with wages, maternity and sickness benefits because under the law a worker must complete a minimum period of work in an establishment as a pre-condition for eligibility. Under the Factories Act, 1948 annual leave with wages is admissible only to workers who work for 240 days or more; under the Mines Act, 1951 to those who complete one calendar year's service; under the Maternity Benefits Act, no woman is entitled to maternity benefit unless she actually works in a particular establishment for a period of not less than 160 days (150 days under the Plantations Labour Act, 1951) in twelve months immediately preceding the date of expected delivery. The Employees' Provident Funds Act, 1952 is applicable only to workers who have put in 240 days of continuous service in one year. The sickness benefit under the Employees' State Insurance Act, 1948 is available to those who pay 13 weeks' contribution in a period of 26 weeks. All such stipulations are an invitation to an unenlightened employer to maintain a large complement of casual labour than is absolutely necessary. During the course of our inquiries many unions complained that employers arbitrarily terminated the services of casual workers to prevent them from completing the prescribed period of service and thus deprived them of the benefits. We have also come across cases particularly in smaller establishments where within a week of termination of service, the same person is engaged afresh for the same job, making the employer's intention obvious.
29.27 In Central Government establishments and a few State Electricity Boards, however, interests of causal labour in the matter of payment of wages and other benefits such as weekly holidays, hours of work, night shift, payment of overtime, have been somewhat protected. In Railways, an employee after six months of service is entitled to the same wages and conditions of work as are admissible to regular but temporary employees; a casual worker is not to be deliberately discharged with a view to causing an artificial break in service, which
will prevent him from becoming a temporary employee; but even with such instructions, the manner of their observance at times has caused irritation to workers. There are some complaints of discrimination in the matter of payment of wages to casual labour in the Railways. During the course of evidence Departments of State Governments such as the Public Works Department, the Irrigation Department, Transport Corporations and State Electricity Boards mentioned to us that employment of casual labour was inevitable because of the very nature of their work. Several of them, however, accepted the need for reducing the complement of casual workers as also for providing some of the benefits available to regular workers to those who have to be continued in their casual capacity beyond a specified period.
29.28 Complete decasualisation of labour is not a practicable proposition in the immediate future and may entail a large measure of idleness and render the operations inconvenient and uneconomic, but in the long run it is a goal worth striving for. It should be possible to evolve and introduce some kind of decasualisation scheme in stages in such sectors as construction industry in urban areas and departmental schemes in State Government departments, such as the PWD, Irrigation, Transport and Electricity. We recommend in the meanwhile a better regulation of conditions of work of casual labour. A beginning should be made in this direction in all undertakings, public and private, through periodic review and consultations among representatives of employers, Government and workers.
29.29 Casual labour should be restricted to work which is truly of a casual nature and it should be employed only where regular workers cannot be employed. For this purpose, every enterprise should determine well in advance the strength of its labour force, both permanent and temporary, in consultation with representatives of labour. Wherever possible there should be a standing order which should, against the 'normal' strength of the enterprise concerned, fix the strength of casual labour. We consider the prevailing practice of discontinuing employment of a casual worker for short periods and again re-employing him to debar him from enjoying the benefits of a permanent worker as pernicious. We recommend that if employment is discontinued for a short period and the worker is re-employed, this short period should not be treated as a break in service. We also recommend that after a casual worker has completed a stipulated period of service, he should be allowed the same benefits which a permanent worker enjoys.