Thiruvananthapuram: Life was brought to a standstill in Kerala on Monday during a 24-hour general strike called by various trade unions demanding rollback of a central government order allowing fixed term employment across sectors.
All markets, shops and establishments in the state were closed.
The state secretariat saw just around 10 per cent of the total staff of around 3,000 in attendance, while the offices of all the state ministers wore a deserted look.
In the state capital, an auto-rickshaw that carried foreign tourists was stopped and protesters deflated the tyres.
While the protesters did not prevent the movement of private vehicles, the state-owned Kerala State Road Transport Corporation stopped its service. In Kochi, the metro services were operating as usual.
The 24-hour strike began on Sunday midnight.
The strike, announced by the coordination committee of 16 trade unions in Kerala, saw the workers' union take out a march from Museum Police Station here to Raj Bhavan at 11 am on Monday. In other districts, protest events were held at central government offices.
CITU, INTUC, AITUC, STU, HMS, UTUC are among the major unions that have joined the protest call. However, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) is not taking part in the protest.
Employees of the state and central government offices such as banks and BSNL took part in the stir.
Public transport vehicles including state-owned KSRTC buses stayed off the roads. Protesters have said that they will not stop private vehicles.
Emergency services such as newspaper, milk, hospitals, medical shops, marriages and flights were exempted from the strike.
Meanwhile, Mahatma Gandhi University, Kerala University, CUSAT, University of Calicut, Kannur University and Kerala University of Health Sciences have postponed all examinations scheduled for Monday. The Public Service Commission (PSC) exams will, however, go on as scheduled.
To know the rescheduled examinations of Kerala University of Health Sciences visit http://kuhs.ac.in/.
The examinations of the integrated 5-year BA LLB, B.Com LLB and BBA LLB degree courses under Kerala University will be held on April 4 (Wednesday). All other examinations will be held on April 18. For more details visit https://www.keralauniversity.ac.in/.
At the Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT), the B.Tech 8th semester (2008 and 2012 scheme) exams will be held on April 12. The B.Tech 4th semester exams of the same scheme, originally set for April 12, will be held on April 21. Dates of others exams will be announced later. For more details visit http://www.cusat.ac.in/.
What is 'fixed term employment'?
On March 21, the government had extended the facility of hiring workers on fixed term employment to all sectors for improving the ease of doing business for players intending to hire people for completing specified projects, tasks or orders. This facility was available only for the apparel manufacturing sector as per the Industrial Establishment (Standing Order) 1946.
As per a notification issued by the labour ministry to amend the order, words "fixed term employment in apparel manufacturing sector" will be replaced by "fixed term employment" meaning that facility would be available to all sectors.
The fixed term employment was introduced in apparel manufacturing sector in Industrial Employment (Standing Order) Act in October, 2016.
The concept of fixed term employment defines the tenure of employment as well as other associated conditions of service and remunerations, which are provided to regular employees under various labour laws. The worker employed for a short period will get better working and service conditions as compared to a contract worker.
The amendment to the order provides that no notice of termination of employment shall be necessary in case of temporary and badli workmen. It would allow companies to 'hire-and-fire' by opening up the contract labour rules.
It also provided that fixed term worker would not be entitled to any notice or pay in lieu of that, if his services are terminated or in case of non-renewable of contract or expiry of term of employment.
The amendment further stipulates that a temporary workmen who has completed three months of continuous service, shall be given two weeks notice of the intention to terminate his employment if such termination is not in accordance with the terms of the contract.
In case he has not completed three months of continuous service, he shall be informed for the reasons for termination in writing.
It also provides that services of temporary shall not be terminated as punishment unless he has been given an opportunity of explaining the charges of misconduct alleged against him.
The fixed worker would be entitled to all benefits like wages, hours of work, allowances and others statutory benefits, not less than permanent workmen.
A fixed term employee is defined as a workman who is employed on a contract basis for a fixed period. Thus the services of workman will be automatically terminated as a result of non-renewal of the contract between the employer and the workman concerned. A separation of service of a workman as a result of non-renewal of the contract of employment between the employer and workman concerned shall not be construed as termination of employment.
This facility will aid industry to employ worker in sector which are of seasonal nature and witness fluctuation of demand and hence requires flexibility in employing worker.
Under the fixed term employment the working conditions in terms of working hours, wages, allowances and other statutory dues of a fixed term employee would be at par with permanent workmen.
A fixed term worker will also be eligible for all statutory benefits available to a permanent workman proportionately according to the period of service rendered by him even though his period of employment does not extend to the qualifying period of employment required in the statute.
The employer can directly hire a worker for a fixed term without mediation of any contractor.