Thiruvananthapuram: The Cooperative Department’s decision to accord priority to the Uralungal Labour Contract Co-operative Society Ltd (ULCCS) while awarding government work contracts was taken in November 1997, during the tenure of Pinarayi Vijayan as the Cooperation Minister.
The decision was implemented by bringing out a new government order that sought to shelve all government orders on labor contract societies until then.
Besides raising the limit set for the societies, including Uralungal, in taking up government works, the order also accorded financial priority to these agencies in projects by the Public Works Department (PWD). The subsequent Left governments in the state too brought out orders in a similar fashion, which all eventually proved to be in favor of Uralungal.
The 1997 government order stipulated that in tenders where labor contract societies take part, the individuals or companies that quote the lowest bid should finalise the contract only after due negotiations with the labor contract society. It further laid down the condition that the society should be awarded the tender in case it expresses the willingness to execute the project at a cost 10 percent above the lowest bid. It was with this order that the Uralungal began receiving financial priority in government tenders.
The Public Works Department, on its part, had pointed out on several occasions that this stipulation stood in direct violation of the Public Works manual and amounted to injustice to the private contractors, though to no avail.
It was in August 2008, during the tenure of the V S Achuthanandan Government, that the government issued an order permitting the Uralungal to take up work contracts, irrespective of the estimated amount. Interestingly enough, the cooperative department singled out the name of Uralungal in that order.
Again, in February 2020, the first Pinarayi Vijayan government permitted the labor contract societies to take up the work of not just the PWD but also of all the government departments. Till 2020, the Uralungal was only permitted to take up work on small buildings and roads, besides maintenance works, etc. However, in November 2020, the Cooperative Department permitted the agency to take up any work, irrespective of its size.
Meanwhile, the order exempting only the Uralungal from furnishing the eligibility and work-on-hand certificates while taking part in a tender was issued as recently as April this year.