Labour welfare refers to all such services, amenities and facilities to the employees that improves their working conditions as well as standard of living. The term labour welfare bears a different interpretation from country to country and from time to time, and even in the same country, according to its value system, social institution, degree of industrialisation and general level of social and economic development. Generally, the labour welfare services are divided into two groups:-
Welfare within the precincts of an establishment – It includes medical aid, creches, canteens, supply of clean drinking water, health services, uniforms and protective clothing, rest shelters, etc. It is the employer’s responsibility to provide these facilities to his/ her employees and several legislations have been enacted to set certain minimum standards for provision of these facilities.
Welfare outside the establishment – It includes social insurance measures like gratuity, pension fund, provident fund,etc; educational facilities; housing facilities; recreational facilities; workers’ cooperatives; vocational training, etc.
In order to extend a measure of social assistance to workers in the unorganised sector, the concept of ‘Labour Welfare Fund’ was evolved. Accordingly, five welfare funds have been set up under the Ministry of Labour and Employment to provide housing, medical care, educational and recreational facilities to workers employed in beedi industry, certain non-coal mines and cine workers. These funds are financed out of the proceeds of cess levied under respective Cess/Fund Acts. The various legislation so enacted include:-
- The Mica Mines Labour Welfare Fund Act, 1946 – was enacted to provide for constitution of a fund for financing the activities which promote welfare of labour employed in the mica mining industry.
- The Limestone and Dolomite Mines Labour Welfare Fund Act, 1972 – was enacted to provide for the levy and collection of a cess on limestone and dolomite for financing the activities which promote the welfare of persons employed in the limestone and dolomite mines.
- The Iron Ore Mines, Manganese Ore Mines & Chrome Ore Mines Labour Welfare Fund Act, 1976– was enacted to provide for financing the activities which promote the welfare of persons employed in the iron ore mines, manganese ore mines and chrome ore mines.
- The Iron Ore Mines, Manganese Ore Mines & Chrome Ore Mines Labour Welfare Cess Act, 1976
The above Acts provide that the fund may be applied by the Central Government to meet the expenditure incurred in connection with measures and facilities which are necessary to provide the welfare of the respective workers.
The Labour Welfare Organization administers these funds and is headed by a Director General (Labour Welfare) / Joint Secretary. He is assisted by the Welfare Commissioner (Headquarters) of Director rank, who supervises nine Regional Welfare Commissioners for the purpose of administration of these funds in the States. These offices of regional Commissioners are located at Allahabad, Bangalore, Bhilwara, Bhubaneshwar, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Jabalpur, Karma (Jharkhand) and Nagpur. They are responsible for providing welfare facilities to the workers employed in mica, limestone and dolomite, iron ore, manganese and chrome ore mines and in the beedi and cinema industries.
The Chief Adviser (Labour Welfare) supervises the functioning of Assistant Labour Welfare Commissioners (ALWCs), Deputy Labour Welfare Commissioners (DLWCs) and Labour Welfare Commissioners (LWCs). The ALWCs and DLWCs are posted in Defence and other establishments, such as, CPWD, Security Presses, Mints, Ordnance Factories, Telecom Factories, and Hospitals etc., which are under the control of Central Government. The LWCs are posted at the Head Quarters of these establishments. Together these officers ensure harmonious Industrial Relations in their respective establishments. They also look after the welfare and redressal of grievances of the workers, administration of Welfare Schemes and advise the managements on various Labour Matters including constitution of bilateral committees, such as, Shop Councils, Works Committees etc.
The scheme of Welfare Funds is outside the framework of specific employer and employee relationship, in as much as the resources are raised by the Government on a non-contributory basis and delivery of welfare services affected without linkage to individual worker’s contribution.
To advise the Central Government on matters related to administration of the above Funds, tripartite Central Advisory Committees have been set up under the respective Welfare Fund Acts. These Committees are headed by Union Labour & Employment Minister.