Those living in Kerala would have at some point fallen prey to the unfair and illegal practice of ‘nokkukooli,’ when workers of registered trade unions are employed for labour-intensive tasks like loading and unloading of domestic goods, farm products, etc.
Literally translating to ‘gawking wages,’ labour unions levy this amount, whether they have delegated their own labourers for the task and/or whether they have completed the allocated work, or not.
In simple words, if you have roped in labourers who are not affiliated with any labour unions for such tasks, chances are quite likely that you will be approached by members from unions in your area demanding a commission for work that they didn’t do!
Sounds irrational and absurd, but that’s exactly how scores of citizens in Kerala have been suffering for all these years, and there was no legal provision in place to put an end to nokkukooli, until now.
Decided to make amends, on May 1, the day dedicated to celebrating labourers and the working classes across the world, the government of Kerala officially abolished this ludicrous practice and declared it unlawful.
The order was motioned following a meeting held between Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and trade union leaders on March 8, with the aim of ensuring a healthy work culture and the labour-investor milieu across the state.
With this move, the state envisions that the citizens have the freedom to engage labourers even in areas unmentioned under the scope of the Headload Workers Act (1978) and prevent unions from charging illegal commission to provide labour.
The order also mandates that the workers commissioned for any labour would be able to only charge the rates fixed by district labour officers henceforth and that no labourer would be allowed to collect nokkukooli in any circumstance. Such acts if notified would lead to strict enactment of action against these workers.
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Additionally, the order makes it mandatory for labourers to wear identity cards issued by the state Labour Department or Headload Workers Welfare Fund Board while on duty and must provide their employers with receipts that are signed by the convenor or pool leader of the trade union’s local unit after the completion of work hereafter.
“On getting a complaint, assistant labour officers and district labour officers should take action to collect the extra or unlawful wages collected by the workers. The right for a worker to work in a sector should not be deemed as one for demanding high wages, and in the event of a dispute, the District Labour Officer should take a decision and could also seek the help of the police if needed,” said Labour Minister TP Ramakrishnan, reports The Hindu.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)