The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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CMs discover contract virtue

New Delhi, Sept. 2: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee did not protest much when Chandrababu Naidu said government employees should be hired on contracts during last month’s inter-state council meeting in Srinagar.

During a discussion on contractual employment, the Andhra Pradesh chief minister pointed to the “success” of the new system of contract labour introduced at the Hyderabad municipal corporation. Naidu said government employees would work only if their jobs were made contractual.

None of the 12 chief ministers present at the meeting demurred. The Bengal chief minister protested mildly. Is it possible to introduce contractual employment in every sector' asked Bhattacharjee.

Others also questioned the feasibility of the system, but none doubted its “efficacy and desirability”. “In fact, all chief ministers and other representatives… were appreciative of Naidu’s suggestion,” an official said.

Bhattacharjee said wage bills of government employees in most states were increasing so much that they had become “unmanageable”.

He said his government was “all for” rationalisation of the workforce, but was opposed to downsizing. The chief minister said workers needed to have job security.

Bengal had been making contract appointments to fill posts whenever recruitment by usual channels took time, Bhattacharjee added.

Most of those present were concerned at rising government expenditure on salaries. All chief ministers agreed that the government apparatus needed to be downsized and that employees had to be more productive.

The Centre has proposed amendments to the Contract Labour Act to widen the scope of contract labour and ensure better terms for them.

It has also sought to amend the Industrial Disputes Act to make retrenchments and closures easier. All central trade unions oppose this.

Union labour minister Sahib Singh Verma told the meeting that labour laws enacted decades ago had to be upgraded to meet the “emerging needs of governance”.

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