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Amendments bought in Labour Law- The Nation's Plight

Satisfied labours are a vital factor to any firm's growth. No firm can prosper without the support of its employees. However, in India more than 25% of rural household and 12% of urban households are dependent on casual labours as their source of income. Over 40% of people in urban areas have salaried jobs but unfortunately this doesn't come with any job security. In the non-agricultural sector over 70% of labour doesn't even have a written contract and more than half of them are not getting paid leaves.

More than half of them are deprived from any job security including health care. Self employed work is not that fancy as it seems like as they are earning no more than 14000 per month in urban areas. Nor is there much in the bank to rely on as a buffer. People are in danger of falling into the trap of poverty. And with the Covid-19 pandemic the need for the reforms are more than ever.

Things have been really disturbing since the Covid-19 pandemic. Activities in almost all the sectors are getting hampered. Due to the lockdown most of the economic activities were hauled. Forget about the activities, the common people are facing difficulties more than ever. The government has discerned that loss in activities has resulted in the reduction of money source for several individuals.

And as the corona virus does not seem to abate anytime soon, the government has been working continuously to restart the economy and make sure that the economy doesn't face too many issues from here. The pandemic has compelled the state to come up with new amendments in order to restart the undertakings in general and to attract more investments. To be precise, the different state government has come up with amendments in the existing labour laws so that it can give a boost to the ventures in different sectors.

Indian Labour Law means all the laws that regulate labour in India. To protect the interests of labour the government at federal and state level has guaranteed a high level of protection for the labour but in reality this contradicts as labour comes in the concurrent list of the Indian constitution which means both parliament and state can make provisions regarding labour.

In general there are about 100 state laws and 40 central laws but still there is no proper definition of labour laws in India. Therefore, the government is in operation to systemize several labour laws under 4 heads to bring some kind of betterment to the existing central level labour laws.

These four heads consist of:
  • Industrial relations
  • Occupational safety, health and working conditions
  • Wages
  • Social security
These include provisions such as The Industrial Dispute Act, 1947, The Factories Act, 1948 and the Payment of Wages Act, 1936.

According to the provisions of Labour and Industrial Laws a state may regulate labour in two ways:
  • By passing its own Labour laws
  • By amending the central level labour laws, as suited in the state
In situations where central and states laws are colliding with each other, central laws will prevail.

Amendments Bought By Different States

Uttar Pradesh
Uttar Pradesh government led by Yogi Adityanath has introduced an ordinance that suspends most of the labour laws for a period of three years. This ordinance shall cover all the already existing industries and manufacturing units; and even the ones which will be opening up in a few years. All the Labor laws which are related to Labour unions, settling work disputes, regulations for working conditions, contracts shall be suspended. However there are some exceptions like Boded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976; Employer Compensation Act, 1923, Building and Other Construction Workers Act, 1996.

Madhya Pradesh
CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan led government has amended the Industrial Dispute Act, 1947 seeking new establishments to be exempted from provisions under the act. This exemption is only applicable for the period of 1000 days but to the condition that proper laws will be made by such industries. Consequently, the order also exempts factories from provisions of the Factories Act, 1948 and MP factories Rules, 1962 for a period of 3 months from the date of the order. It even permits overtime of up to 72 hours and the shifts in workplaces to increase up to 12 hours. It also states that there would be no inspection in the workplaces employing less than 50 workers.

The state has increased the working hours to 12 hours per day for the period of three months from the date of notification. Under the Factories Act, 1948 the government has abolished the adult workforce from working due to the need of less man force in the manufacturing units supplying essential goods and services. Apart from this the state has also amended Industrial Dispute Act.

The state has instructed all the adult workers not to work more than 72 hours in a week. The provision for females exempts them to work between 7:00 PM to 6:00 AM. The state also stated that the wages would be in proportion to the existing wages. The working time has also increased to 72 hours per week.

Himachal Pradesh
The provision of section 59 of the Factories Act, 1948 related to overtime wages will continue to take place without any change and no worker will work for more than 72 hours in a week.

State has asked to submit integrated annual returns in place of multiple returns under various provisions of labour laws.

Implications Of Such Amendments

According to experts such amendments have resulted in brutal and cruel exploitation of labour laws. There was a nationwide strike as well to help safeguard the interests of workers. While some ministers have justified that such reforms is the need of the hour to give an economic boost to businesses and factories, yet it has received criticism on the basis that it infringes the rights of the workers.

The point of debate is that the government since few years is trying to impose labour law reforms (amendment to the existing laws) in the name of improving the current labour laws which are said to be complicated and an obstacle to the economy growth. Such reforms will bring flexibility to business operations, relaxation to employees and will increase foreign investment.

Such reforms are getting highly criticized as it will neglect the fundamental rights of the workers. It seems like the government is using this pandemic as a way of forcing these so called reforms on the already existing plight of workers and making it even more difficult. These reforms are said to increase the working hours, will curtail wages, abolish social security and etc. Due to the amendments plight of the workers is even more visible and has come to a fore front. The government is completely ignoring the fact that such long working hours will have a negative effect on the health and safety of workers.

However, there are some positives which can be drawn from such amendments like:
  • The workers who have migrated back to their state will be given employment due to the flexibility in business and operations.
  • As some of the labour laws are still intact, the workers will continue be protected by it.
  • It will help to re-skill the workers.

The arguments against the reforms which could be clearly seen are:
  • Due to the size of the population, even the formal sector will be affected by the ordinance.
  • The ordinance could result in termination of services of all the employees. They would be replaced with contract workers.

What Can Be Done?

The following steps can be taken into consideration:
  • The current situation is limited in time, temporary employment schemes can be very helpful; the Government can have a look at the foreign reforms, like for example in Belgium workers keep their jobs and gets an income guarantee borne by the social security system.
  • The government should pass the provisions on laws of wages, industrial relations, social security and welfare as soon as possible in the parliament.
  • Should make effective laws on the working conditions of the labour.
  • The International Labour Organization has suggested increasing social protection and supporting employment retention.

Since the independence, Labour laws have undergone .significant changes with regard to their subject and scope. Early labour laws were governed by the doctrine of laissez faire whereas the modern laws aim to protect the workers against the exploitation by employers. Justice Cardozo in his book �Judicial Process� has stated that yesterday laws should not hamper today's laws and today's law should not paralyze tomorrow laws.

Laws are enacted considering the needs of the society; they shouldn't be enacted at the cost of society's need. Labour rights are ultimately the human rights and the Indian constitution cannot seize its constitutional obligations and commitments to something which will hamper the other rights. In order to make broader rights look veracious, basic rights cannot be overlooked. For the economy growth and development there is a need of practical labour law reforms keeping their primary right intact which will help in the firms growth and ultimately upliftment of society.

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