Two BJP-led states Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh have decided to stay labour laws in the name of reviving the economy under the cover of the COVID-19 pandemic. Uttar Pradesh government has decided to dilute certain labour laws in the state for the period of next three years, while Madhya Pradesh proposed a series of changes including the need to maintain official records for the purpose of inspection.
The Ordinance passed by the Uttar Pradesh government stated that government has cleared the ‘Uttar Pradesh Temporary Exemption from Certain Labour Laws Ordinance, 2020’ to exempt all establishments, factories and businesses from the purview of all labour laws except the Building and Construction Workers Act, Bonded Labour Act, women and children welfare Act and certain sections of the Workmen Compensation Act.
All the other labour laws stand suspended for 1,000 days (three years). Laws pertaining to trade unions, contract workers, industrial disputes, occupational safety, health and working conditions of workers have been put on hold.
The Minimum Wages Act, the Equal Remuneration Act, the Trade Unions Act, the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, the Industrial Disputes Act, the Factories Act, the Contract Labour Act, the Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act, the Employees’ Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, the Employees’ State Insurance Act and the Unorganized Workers’ Social Security Act will remain suspended.
On Thursday, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Chauhan proposed amendments to the Factories Act, Madhya Pradesh Industrial Relations Act and Industrial Disputes Act. According to the statement released by the government, there was the need to give various concessions to industries in the next 1,000 days due to the situation arising out of the corona crisis”
The proposed amendments in the labour laws will allow companies not to follow required safety standards related to the health, safety and working conditions of employees. New units set up in Madhya Pradesh will be exempted from the necessary provisions of cleanliness, disposal of waste, ventilation, lighting, drinking water, urinals, canteens, restrooms, crèches, working hours, wages during the leave period, and the need for the manager of the factory to send notice to authorities in case any worker contracts occupational diseases, said news report in Business Standard.
The dilution of the labour laws has drawn flak from trade unions and worker’s organisations. “The MP industrial relations bill 1960 is being completely done away with, with the results that bargaining right of unions and their democratic right to reach agreements will be over. As it is labour laws remain unimplemented. Through struggles workers were able to make owners sign agreements for increments, for ESI, PF, Bonus implementation, for regularisation, or any other lawful rights,” said Animesh Das, president of Indian Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU-Delhi).
In a statement, IFTU said that new establishments will be free for 1000 days from the ID Act, which gives the right to strike, protection on layoffs, retrenchments, and lockouts, right to raise industrial disputes before competent government authority. “Owners are blatantly and openly being given the right to hire and fire in so many words. No interference will be allowed by labour department,” underscored Aparna, IFTU-member.
Corona pandemic is being misused to take away the hard-earned rights of workers. “During the lockdown, workers were not offered protection. The Prime Minister gave false assurances. In reality, most workers have not received any salary for two months. Those who work away from home could not pay rentals; they have not been getting food to eat as rations are over, hardly anyone has got promised rations, and workers are not being helped to return home. Now under lockdown rights are being attacked and the stage is set to reduce workers to slaves,” said a statement released by IFTU.