New Delhi, Oct 26: New Labour Minister Oscar Fernandes stepped into his office today, a day after his similarly shifted ministerial colleagues, telling workers he was ''as much concerned about them as the Left parties''.
All workers' worries like EPF interest cut, hire and fire, and delayed social security for unorganised sector will be assuaged through talks with trade unions, Mr Fernandes told reporters this morning in his new position as Labour and Employment Minister (Independent Charge).
''I am as much concerned about the workers as the Left parties are,'' he said allaying the fears of the huge work force in the country swarmed by the currents of economic liberalisation.
Mr Fernandes, Minister of State without portfolio earlier, was one of the ministers who were reallocated portfolios during the minor reshuffle on Tuesday.
Mr Fernandes said the National Common Minimum Programme of the UPA coalition government would be the benchmark for all decisions emerging from his ministry.
Responding to the demands of Left-leaning central trade unions the CPI (M)-affiliated CITU and the CPI-backed AITUC that the EPF interest rate should not be further cut from its present 8.5 per cent, he said he would ''look into the issue''.
Mr Fernandes left for 10, Janpath, the residence of UPA chairperson and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, shortly after assuming charge at the Shram Shakti Bhavan, the Labour and Employment Ministry office.
''I will work closely with my party,'' he said.
He said he would be meeting his ministry officials soon to get a first hand understanding of how the important government wing functioned to guard the interests of the workers.
Since every political party has its own trade union and some trade unions are not affiliated to any political parties, it would be his endeavour to take all of them on board, Mr Fernandes said.
The minister, however, has his task cut out as the formidable Left trade unions are fiercely opposing the move to curtail trade union rights for workers in the controversial Special Economic Zones.
Mr Fernandes is the government's main negotiator with the naga insurgents and has been instrumental in holding the cease-fire with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM).