Kerala law to allow salespersons to sit and do their job

Salespersons in most commercial establishments, mainly in textile and jewellery shops now work standing continuously for more than 10 hours a day.

By T.k. Devasia

Published: Tue 23 Jun 2015, 11:16 PM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 2:59 PM

Trivandrum: Salespersons at shops and commercial establishments in Kerala will soon be able to sit and do their job.

The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) government has decided to amend the Kerala Shops and Commercial Establishments Act 1960 to give a provision for this and many other measures friendly towards the salespersons, especially women.

Salespersons in most commercial establishments, mainly in textile and jewellery shops now work standing continuously for more than 10 hours a day.

Even though the working hours as per the present Act are eight, most shops make the salespersons work 10 to 12 hours a day.

The bill for amending the Act to be introduced in the next session of the state Assembly will not only regulate the working hours but also provide for enough time to salespersons to rest. The bill provides for one hour rest after doing four hours of continuous work.

The business establishments must provide special room for employees to take rest and eat their food. Women employees should be provided with separate wash rooms. They must be kept clean always.

The bill follows long struggles by the salespersons for protection of their rights at work places. The struggle was spearheaded by Penkoottu, an organisation for women in the northern city of Calicut, by demanding ‘right to sit’.

The forum later took up the matter with the Kerala Sate Human Rights Commission and Labour Minister. As these efforts did not yield any result, the forum united sales women from across Kerala under the banner of Asangatitha Meghala Thozhilali Union (AMTU), a collective forum of workers in the unorganised sector.

A ‘Right to Sit’ strike called by AMTU last year drew support from most women’s outfits as well as human rights organisations across the state. P Viji, secretary of the Penkoottu, has welcomed the move to amend the Act. She said labour officers were not taking action on their pleas citing lack of provision in the Act.

The forum has also urged the government to include the provision for toilet facilities and other basic amenities in the proposed law. Though they organised a prolonged agitation demanding toilet facilities in shops, many of them have not made provisions for this so far.

It’s not easy for shops to comply with the requirements as they situate in crowded areas in the city. The shops started facing pressure with more and more women joining the work force in the past few decades.

Viji said women were coming forward to work due to the increasing prices of essential commodities and the changes in the living standards. It is not possible to lead a family life with husband’s income only, which is forcing many women to opt for work.

“When they arrive for work due to these compulsions, they are subjected to exploitation, forced to work in long stretches for less payment and without providing adequate facilities like drinking water and toilets,” she added.

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