April 15, 2004 | Financial Express

Tisco union in pact to protect women staff

Jamshedpur: Tata Iron & Steel Company Limited — the oldest private sector steel producer in the country — has set a milestone in its efforts to adequately protect female employees from being harassed at the workplaces. The steel major formally signed what it called an “historic” memorandum of settlement with the Tata Workers Union (TWU) in the presence of the state labour commissioner, Ms Nidhi Khare, in Jamshedpur on Tuesday. Speaking at the occasion, Ms Khare, said the Supreme Court’s judgment was aimed at ensuring protection for women employees and help them develop and grow career.  

Encouraging Tata Steel to undertake many more women-related welfare measures in the future, she said that more and more women were joining the workforce and they need to be assured of their safety and their rights at their workplace. According to Tata Steel, the agreement which follows the apex court judgment, would encourage women employees of the company gain their rightful place in the organisation and grow with it, with confidence. 

Tata Steel managing director, B Muthuraman, said that the steel major, over the last 97 years, has had several firsts in the area of labour welfare and that in yet another major initiative, the Tata Steel management and TWU have signed an agreement for including sexual harassment as an act of misconduct in the Works Standing Orders (WSO). 

Tata Steel, he said, has always believed in empowering women and has taken many initiatives in the direction and will continue to do so in future as well. 

For its women employees, Tata Steel introduced maternity benefit scheme in 1928, which was enforced by law in India as late as 1946. In 1917, it set up the welfare department that was enacted by law as the Factories Act, in 1948.

The TWU president, RBB Singh, expressed his satisfaction with the agreement and said that both TWU and Tata Steel have together espoused the cause of female employees, especially with the workforce which had a good number of them. 

The company’s Tejaswini programme under which women are encouraged and trained to undertake jobs, such as using heavy mobile equipment, which were traditionally handled by male employees, has been a demonstration of its effort in the area.

According to the memorandum of settlement, an additional clause has been incorporated in the Works Standing Orders of Tata Steel — the act of misconduct or “sexual harassment at work place” is a punishable act, if proved, under the existing provisions of Works Standing Orders. 

Tata Steel has also implemented the Supreme Court’s guideline for constitution of a ‘complaints committee’ to look into the grievances of female employees regarding sexual harassment in work places, if any, under the convenorship of Ms Rekha Seal, the ethic counsellor.