Mar 11, 2022

5 things you didn’t know about the legal rights of migrant workers

The government has stated that more than one crore migrant labourers returned to their home States on foot during March-June 2020, including those who travelled during the COVID-19 lockdown.

  1. Which law protects the rights of migrant workers?

We have a law that regulates the employment of inter-State migrant workers, and lays down their conditions of service. This is the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979.

  1. Who is an inter-State migrant worker?

An inter-State migrant worker is any person who is recruited by a contractor in one State for employment in an establishment in another State. The establishment can be any Government office/department, or a place of industry, trade, business, manufacture or occupation.

The contractor is a person who accepts responsibility to produce a given result for the establishment by employing or supplying workmen to the establishment. Anyone who recruits or employs workmen is a contractor. The migrant worker can be recruited by the contractor under an agreement or another arrangement.

A contractor is different from the principal employer who is responsible for the supervision and control of an establishment. A principal employer could refer to the head of a Government office, the owner/manager of a factory or a mine etc. Interestingly, the migrant worker may be recruited by the contractor even without the knowledge of the principal employer.

  1. Wage rates of inter-State migrant workers

If an inter-State migrant worker performs the same kind of work as other workmen in the establishment, the migrant worker has the right to get the same wage rates, holidays, hours of work and other conditions of service that are applicable to the other workmen. If the migrant worker does not perform similar work as other workmen, he is entitled to wage rates, holidays, work hours etc. as specified by the Government.

The inter-State migrant worker should be paid at least minimum wages fixed under the law. The wages have to be paid in cash.

  1. Other allowances given to migrant workers

At the time of recruitment, the contractor should pay a displacement allowance to every inter-State migrant workman. The displacement allowance is 50% of the monthly wages payable to the worker, or ₹ 75, whichever is higher. This displacement allowance is not refundable and it is paid in addition to the wages or other amounts payable to the migrant worker.

The contractor should also pay a journey allowance to the inter-State migrant workman. This journey allowance should not be less than the fare from the worker’s place of residence to the place of work in the other State. The contractor should pay the journey allowance for the outward as well as return journeys. During the journey period, the migrant workman has the right to get payment of wages just like he would have gotten if he was on duty.

  1. Punishment for violating the rights of migrant workers

Any person who violates the law regarding the employment of inter-State migrant workmen can be punished. The punishment is imprisonment for up to one year and/or a fine of up to ₹ 1000. In case the person continues the violation, he can be fined an additional amount of ₹ 100 for every day during which the violation continues.

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