Indian unions hold webinar with employers, assess impact of COVID-19 in construction

28 April 2020 07:39

      BWI affiliate Thamizhaga Kattida Thozhilalargal Madhiya Sangam (TKTMS) in Tamil Nadu State organised a webinar with the Construction and Real Estate Industry Coalition (CRIC) last 25 April to discuss the issues faced by the construction sector amidst the spread of COVID-19 in the State. Seventeen (17) State Executive Committee members of the CRIC across Tamil Nadu, including S. Yuvaraj (Secretary) and V.N Kannan (Treasurer) participated in the webinar. TKTMS President Ponkumar Ponnuswamy led the deliberations. 

      Ponkumar outlined the challenges presented by COVID-19 and the lockdown, particularly their impact on the construction industry, workers and the overall economy. He shared the online deliberations of the BWI-Indian Affiliates Council (IAC) comprised of forty-five (45) unions. The IAC endorsed a 10-point Charter of Demands which was submitted to the Minister of Labour and Employment and to the Prime Minister of India. 

      For their part, the CRIC members presented the challenges faced by employers’ organisations such as revenue and job losses in the construction sector as a result of the lockdown. 

      The webinar ended with recommendations to mitigate COVID-19’s impact in the industry and endorsed its submission to the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu State. 

      The recommendations are the following:

      • Government should prioritize resumption of construction activities as the closure hurt the economy. The industry  is the largest contributor to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and livelihoods after agriculture. 

      • Allow shops selling construction materials to operate in certain zones and areas where construction work is allowed. Lack of materials is undermining the work.  

      • Relax the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and vehicle toll tax (intrastate) in the State for a period of 6 months (post-lockdown). 

      • Provide each worker registered to Tamil Nadu State Construction Workers Welfare Board the amount of INR 5000 (USD 66) to be transferred to their bank accounts.

      • Commitment from employers to provide workers with personal protective equipment (PPE), (hand sanitisers, soap & water) at  worksites.

      • Request the State Government to organise transportation for the safe return to their native villages of all stranded migrant workers in different parts of Tamil Nadu. 

       “We are faced with an unprecedented crisis. To mitigate its socio-economic impact, all stakeholders need to come forward, including employers and trade unions. We, along with other associations, are raising funds and supplying ration packets to the affected families in our respective areas in the State. We are bracing ourselves for the new challenges at work. Amidst the ‘new normal,’ safeguards must be put in place to ensure that both the lives and livelihoods of workers are protected,” Ponnuswamy said.