Willing to engage unions on inflation, jobs: PM

New Delhi, May 17 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Friday said his government was willing to engage constructively with trade unions to address issues like curbing inflation, generating employment and strictly implementing labour laws.

“The recent two-day strike by trade unions focussed on a number of issues relating to the welfare of not only of the working classes but also people at large. Demands for concrete measures for containing inflation, for generation of employment opportunities, for strict implementation of labour laws, are unexceptionable,” the prime minister said while addressing the 45th session of the Indian Labour Conference here.

“There can, however, be differences on the best ways of fulfilling these demands and we are willing to engage constructively with trade unions in this regard,” he added.

According to the prime minister, talks on universal social security cover for workers in the organised and unorganised sectors and other issues like the creation of a National Social Security Fund, fixing a National Floor Level Minimum Wage and provision of minimum pension of Rs.1,000 per month under the Employees’ Pension Scheme were at an advanced stage.

“We have set up a group of ministers under the finance minister to go into the whole gamut of demands raised by the trade unions. I am confident that soon you will see some forward movement on these demands,” said the prime minister.

The government’s aim, he said, was to skill five crore people by the end of the 12th Five Year Plan.

“This will not only help in generating good quality employment but will also provide the industry with skilled workforce. They need to expand and modernise their operations,” Singh said.

Noting that the economy was going through difficult circumstances and growth was not what “we would like it to be”, the prime minister sought cooperation of the industry and trade unions.

“Even as the government works for reversing this situation, I am confident we can do so and we will do it. We need the cooperation of both captains of the industry and our trade unions,” he said.

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