The worker is becoming more and more conscious of his power. Organizations like Trade Unions help them. He no longer sends petitions to the management for favour but demands rights. In the nineteenth century, these demands were ruthlessly suppressed. A Duchess once expressed unbounded surprise that a worker should demand a holiday. Temptations were placed in the way of over-worked, underfed labourers in the shape of tadi and liquor shops.
But those days are gone. The demands of the worker have now to be acknowledged, both on a moral and practical plane. That a factory-owner should roll in wealth, while the workers, who sweat for him. Grovel in poverty, is today recognized as something indefensible and unethical.
The moral sense of man has to be soothed. The facilities offered by the former Soviet Government so that the worker may live a humane life, have also led the capitalists to do something for the workers. And so the system of having a Labour Welfare organization, attached to a factory, was devised in response to the growing demand.
The Labour Welfare officer is an intermediary between labour and management. He has to advise the management on the minimum that must be done to put down labour discontent. And then he has to persuade the workers into accepting that minimum. He cannot incur the displeasure of either party. His object generally is both promotion of labour welfare’ while safeguarding the employers’ interests. However, vigilance is also taken-up.
In Europe, where labour is well organised, the bigger firms have, no doubt, done something for Labour Welfare on healthy lines. There are arrangements for medical aid, hygienic quarters, free education and amenities for recreation. Efforts are made to improve the workers’ general standard of life because it has been proved that a contented worker is more useful in the long run.
Furthermore, it helps to ease to some extent the militancy among the workers. The workers in mines and factories in India are required to live in conditions almost sub-human. Government should step in with necessary legislation to secure at least a minimum standard of life among workers.
Every employer of labour must make adequate provisions of housing and sanitation, must provide for free medical help and make hospital treatment available for the sick, maternity attention for the women labourers should also be provided. Besides, there must be arrangement for the free education of the children of workers and for their healthy recreation. A beginning, of course, has been made in recent years in our country with schemes for social insurance and medical help, which are in various stages of implementation. More liberal laws and regular tribunals are now there to implement them.
The former Soviet Union carried out the most ambitious plans for promoting labour welfare. Every facility was provided, not only to maintain the worker in comfort but to give him every chance to improve his position. Scheme also covers a good number of lower-grade govt. employees.
Attention to Labour Welfare as a part of integrated labour policy is essential. The connection between a healthy contented worker and efficiency of work has been demonstrated beyond all disputes now. The prosperity of the State being intimately connected with increased production, it follows that the State must retain the right, ensuring a minimum standard of Labour Welfare. One of the ways it can do so is, undoubtedly, through labour legislation. But that is not enough. Actual benefits should be ensured.