India: BWI leader heads state construction welfare board

The newly-elected state government of Tamil Nadu in India has reconstituted the state’s construction workers’ welfare board headed by Tamil Nadu Construction Workers Central Union (TKTMS) President Ponkumar Ponnuswamy. 

Ponnuswamy, whose union is an affiliate of the Building and Woodworkers’ International (BWI), was nominated to the board as government representative and subsequently appointed as its Chairman on 28 June.

Ponnuswamy thanked Tamil Nadu State Chief Minister Thiru M K Stalin for the opportunity to head the state’s workers’ welfare board amidst a pandemic that has compounded labour in the construction sector. “We shall ensure that the stipulated benefits under the Board are timely disbursed to the workers and their families; and all workers, including migrants in the state, are covered. Construction sector forms the backbone of the economy and has a crucial role to play in the process of economic recovery. We shall put in place steps and measures in consultation with key stakeholders to promote inclusive’ growth and remove barriers that ails the sector,” he said. 

The state’s workers’ welfare board, which is tripartite in nature, has 26 members. It includes senior government representatives comprised of secretaries of the Municipal Administration and Water Supply, Finance, Public Works, Housing and Urban Development, Highways and Minor Ports Departments, the Labour Commissioner, the Director of Industrial Safety and Health, the Direct of Public Health and the Regional Labour Commissioner. The Employers are represented by the Builders’ Association of India and the Confederation of Real Estate Developers Associations of India. 

The board oversees the employment and conditions of service of building and construction workers, including their health and safety. At present, 1.34 million workers in Tamil Nadu are registered under the board. 

The board’s funds come from the cess levied (1 percent) on construction activities within an approved time frame. The welfare board has more than Rs. 30 billion funding various programs that support the education of construction workers’ children, maternity and marriage benefits, accidental relief and pension.