A brief background
On 15.10.1999 the Government of India set up the second National Commission on Labour, inter alia, to suggest "rationalisation of existing laws relating to labour in the organised sector" and "an umbrella legislation for ensuring a minimum level of protection to workers in the unorganised sector." Having reviewed the entire gamut of labour laws, the Commission recommended, inter alia, that the provisions of the then existing labour laws should be incorporated in a comprehensive code. As the first step, the National Commission recommended that the labour laws be grouped into well-recognised functional groups relating to "industrial relations", "wages", "social security", "safety" and "welfare".
The Industrial Relations Code, 2019
In pursuance to the recommendations made by the second National Commission on Labour and the deliberations made subsequently by the representatives of the stake-holders, the Central Government decided to rationalise and amalgamate different Central labour enactments into four Codes.
The Industrial Relations Code (Bill No. 364 of 2019) was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 28.11.2019. It sought to amalgamate, simplify and rationalise the relevant provisions of three labour laws, the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, the Trade Unions Act, 1926 and the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946. The 2019 Code was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour on 23.12.2019. The Committee submitted its Eighth Report on the 23rd April, 2020 recommending various modifications in the said Bill to give impetus to the economic activity in the country without compromising on the basic aspects of the benefit to workers. Considering the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee, the Central Government withdrew the Industrial Relations Code, 2019 pending in Parliament and introduced a new Bill, namely, the Industrial Relations Code, 2020 with certain modifications.
The Industrial Relations Code (Bill No. 120 of 2020) was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 14.09.2020. After the Bill was passed by both the Houses of Parliament, the President of India gave his assent to the Code on 28.09.2020.
Rules are yet to be made under the Industrial Relations Code, 2020 ("the IR Code"). As per media reports, the draft rules would be notified and possibly, the Code along with other codes would come into effect from 1st April, 2021.
SALIENT FEATURES OF THE IR CODE
This article seeks to capture some major changes brought about by the IR Code in the laws relating to collective bargaining, standing orders, and resolution of industrial disputes.
An Act to consolidate and amend the laws relating to Trade Unions, conditions of employment in industrial establishment or undertaking, investigation and settlement of industrial disputes and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
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