This series is an attempt to think through and articulate some of the questions that have come up via the struggle against transferring Venkatappa Art Gallery to a private foundation. Some of the issues I will be exploring have not yet made it into conversations or articulations amongst those fighting against the takeover. This would be a very important attack on labour to fend off.
The KTVG (Karnataka Tourism Vision Group) in it’s introduction to the takeover of public spaces in Karnataka states that the no of possible jobs that can be created is 4.3 million over the next decade. The govt policy pegs it at 30 lakhs for a 5 year period.(GoK, Tourism Policy:17)
Recommendations of the KTVG on Labour:
- The Tourism Industry to be brought under the Essential Service Act in order to “give the tourism industry immunity against frequent disruption in business like strikes/ bundhs, protecting visitors to the state from any on-going dispute.” (KTVG, Recommendations:59)
What is the Essential Service Act?
ESMA covers services which are by and large public utility services such as railways, ports, defence etc. It is an act that empowers the State to prohibit any kind of strike. The Act defines strike “as cessation of work “ including the refusal to work overtime, or refusal to do anything that may hamper the service. Any person engaging in such a strike or financially supporting such a strike can be arrested without a warrant.
What this broadly means is that your ability to go on strike say over wages, over safety of women, over being overworked and underpaid etc will be taken away.
“liberal policies and rules under contract labour act are required to ensure availability of larger work force in non-core areas of Hospitality, such as security, kitchen stewarding, maintenance and cleaning services.” (KTVG, Recommendations:60)
What is the Contract Labour act?
Contract labour act provides for protection of workers’ rights over such things as availability of drinking water, toilets, rest houses for overnight stays, timely payment of wages, canteens, first aid etc. It is applicable to a firm employing more than 20 workers. The company or director can held responsible and this includes a fine or/and imprisonment.
KTVG also recommends:
- It is also required to amend the Karnataka Shops and Establishment Act to accommodate 12 hours shifts and extend the cap on overtime hours per day for all staff in the Tourism and Hospitality Sector. (KTVG, Recommendations:60)
Karnataka Shops and Establishment Act
- Finally, it is essential to encourage recruiting of skilled foreign staff in the Tourism and Hospitality Sector, such as spa therapists. This is best achieved by seeking a reduction in minimum threshold level to USD 10,000 as against the present USD 25,000 limit per annum. (KTVG, Recommendations:60)
- Certification of tour guides.
- Encourage internships.