Working Class
Notes on Some Sectors of the Working Class in Tamil Nadu

[AICCTU in Tamilnadu has held a series of workshops to study the salient features of various sectors and the living conditions of workers in these sectors in preparation for a mass membership campaign. Below are excerpts from some of the papers presented at the workshops in Chennai and Thanjavur. Ed/-]


A look into the working of Construction Labour Board


The Board started functioning from 1994.

Membership up to 2001 – 3,13,240. [7 years]

Membership between 2001 to 12/5/2006 – 7,75,552. [5 years]

Membership from 13/5/2006 to 31/8/09 – 8,60,844 [3 years]

Total 15 years : 19,49,636 membership


From 2001 onwards, some sort of organised efforts are going on in this sector. In this period alone more than 16 lakhs construction workers were enrolled in the Board.

This increase in membership is more pronounced after 1/9/2006 when registration and renewal fees were abolished.

Alarmed by this phenomenal increase the Govt. is trying desperately to stem the tide by placing obstacles in registration. [Earlier it was enough if the TU identifies the worker. Now identification has to be verified by revenue authorities.]

Some 20 lakh workers are not yet brought into the Board, and a considerable number of interstate and inter district migrant workers cannot join the Board.


Period Beneficiaries

I. Period 1995 – 2001 : Beneficiaries-- 4037, Benefits-- Rs. 2,00,17,750

II. Period 2001 – 12/05/06 : Beneficiaries-- 66,323, Benefits-- Rs. 22,91,78.974

III. Period 13/05/06 – 31/08/09 : Beneficiaries-- 1,68,746, Benefits-- Rs. 52,10,46,950

Toral Beneficiaries 2,39,103, Total Benefits Rs. 77,02,43,314


One can observe with more organisation and better knowledge, in the latter periods, the beneficiaries and benefits are greater even in shorter time spans.

The details of benefits, beneficiaries and the amount paid

The details of benefits, beneficiaries and the amount paid

Accident deaths and final rites : No. of beneficiaries-- 843; Amount paid Rs. 8,60,04,000

Accidents : No. of beneficiaries-- 167; Amount paid Rs. 44,85,050

Natural deaths and final rites : No. of beneficiaries-- 19914; Amount paid Rs. 29,57,11,660

Marriage assistance : No. of beneficiaries-- 47680; Amount paid Rs. 9,53,54,500

Maternity benefit : No. of beneficiaries-- 6450; Amount paid Rs. 3,44,77,430

Spectacles : No. of beneficiaries-- 3532; Amount paid Rs. 15,41,866

Pension and arrears : No. of beneficiaries-- 5929; Amount paid Rs. 5,20,78,268

Education assistance

10th Std. girls--- No. of beneficiaries-- 18741; Amount paid Rs. 1,87,41,000

11th Std. girls--- No. of beneficiaries-- 13082; Amount paid Rs. 1,30,82,000

12th Std. girls--- No. of beneficiaries-- 13871; Amount paid Rs. 2,08,06,500

10th pass--- No. of beneficiaries-- 48236; Amount paid Rs. 4,82,36,000

12th pass--- No. of beneficiaries-- 28505; Amount paid Rs. 4,27,57,500

Higher education--- No. of beneficiaries-- 32152; Amount paid Rs. 5,69,67,520

Total beneficiaries : 2,39,103; Benefits : 77,02,43,314


Workers received nearly Rs. 38 crores after their death; while living their families got Rs. 39 crores.

When compared with other manufacturing sectors, the construction sector has 4 to 5 times more accidents.

From 1994 to 2006 the board gave accident death benefits to 690 only. This number is ridiculously low. The obvious inference is, many who met with accidental death or claims have not been made.

These benefits are paid through insurance.

Only some 11 % are getting benefits.

For nearly 20 lakhs registered, higher education claims are there only for 32,153! Social justice indeed!

Cess Fund

Cess Fund is collected only at 0.3%, whereas the Central Act says that between 1 to 2% cess fund can be collected from builders. The TN Govt. is not willing to collect 1% from Central Govt. Now the total amounts with the Board are Rs. 290,07,37,336. If 1% is collected it will go up to Rs. 900 crores, and more benefits can be given to more beneficiaries.


The Government uses the Board to maintain a Patron-Beneficiary relationship and turn workers into a vote bank. We can use the Board to turn the tables on the Government. Boards should answer for wages, employment and working conditions.


Interstate Migrant Workers

Lakhs of migrant workers – from West Bengal, Jharkhand, Orissa and AP – have come to Chennai to build the new TN Legislature and Secretariat. Due to the haste in construction work, gross negligence and accidents followed.

There are some three lakh such migrant workers working in Old Mahabalipuram road and Sriperumbudur Irungattukotai areas. The Tamil Nadu Democratic Construction Labour Union affiliated to AICCTU organised a team to go and investigate the conditions of the migrant labour in the new Assembly Secretariat complex. A team consisting of comrades Eraniappan, Kuppabai, Raja, Munuswamy, Mohan, Murugdas and Robert made an investigation on 21/01/2010 in the new complex. Their investigation report and recommendations are given below:

The team was able to enter the complex around 11 o’clock only after registering their names in the register. Only two from the team were allowed to talk with an official of the East Coast Construction Industry who assured, “Migrant labourers are very happy to work here. That is why they return again to this complex. Labour Inspectors check periodically whether the laws are complied with.” Then our comrades were ‘safely’ taken on a guided tour.

Our comrades persuaded somebody to take them to the workers’ living quarters. Fifteen to twenty workers stay in a 10x20 feet room. There was only a mud floor, and an old model round light bulb. There was neither light nor air. There was no latrine nearby. Good drinking water was not to be seen anywhere. Migrant labour could be seen carrying two sets of food vessels on a wooden pole. Scattered around were some Tamil inter-district migrant labour from Tiruvannamalai, Velluru and Tambaram areas.

The new Legislature is being built by East Coast Construction Industry and the new Secretariat by Pune’s Vasron Engineers. The Assembly’s dome is built by Geodesic of Bengaluru. The architects are Germany’s GMP International. The 21st century and the 19th century appear to be meeting here, with advanced technology coexisting with the most primitive and exploitative living and working conditions of workers.

To deny market rate of wages, there is a calculated diversion towards statutory minimum wages. Construction workers in Chennai have crossed the minimum wage a long time ago. Even when an ordinary worker builds a very small house he pays wages of Rs. 200 to 400 per day for unskilled, semiskilled and skilled works. But the mighty state government is paying something less than that. Some workers were even paid Rs. 130 per day. Some workers alleged that a part of their wages is withheld on the ground that when they leave they can have substantial savings.

The team came back and cross checked with the provisions of the Interstate Migrant Workers Act 1979 and the Interstate Migrant Workers’ TN Rules 1983 – to find that all the following provisions are being violated:

TN Rule 37: The contractor should provide free, adequate and necessary medical facility.

Rule 38: Provides for protective clothing due to change of seasons.

Rule 39: provides for adequate safe drinking water. Latrines, urinals and washing places.

Rule 40: Provides for 1.1 sq. meters per person as rest room and that that rest room should have light and air with drinking water.

Rule 41: Canteen should be provided if more than one hundred are employed on a no profit-no loss basis.

Rule 42: Provides for one latrine for 25 persons.

Rule 43: Provides for an enclosure to take bath and wash and that there should be buckets, tumblers and mugs. It also states that each person should have 20 litres of water per day.

Rule 45: Provides for living accommodation with corridor, kitchen at ten sq. feet per person and one latrine and one bathroom for three people.

The rules provide for a displacement allowance and to and fro expenses. They also provide for the maintenance of pass book while in service and the issuance of a service certificate on leaving services. No one seems to be aware of these provisions.

The Team’s Recommendations:

Tamil Nadu Govt. should declare itself to be the Principal Employer as per the Interstate Migrant Workers’ Act.

The State Government should in letter and spirit implement strictly the Interstate Migrant Workers’ Act 1979 and the connected TN Rules 1983.

Market rate of wages is more than statutory minimum wages. TN Govt. should enter into the competition to secure the first place in paying market wages.

When prices are subsidized for our MPs why not a canteen with subsidized rates for the thousands of migrant labour who are building the seats of power?

In a place where more than four thousand work, there must be a mini hospital, small team of doctors and an ambulance.

The state government should come forward with a white paper in a transparent manner which should bring out the real working and living conditions of the migrant labour.

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