Sates Labour Laws aimed at Curtailing workers rights would not be approved: Labour Ministry
Accoring to a report published in Times Of India, The complete suspension of labour rights, as done by some states, cannot be termed as labour reforms and would not be accepted in the current form, the labour and employment minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar told ET. Government will provide an amicable environment where a balance is created between the rights of workers and the demands for doing business, he said in an interview to ET. Edited excerpts:
Some BJP-ruled states have taken the ordinance route to exempt all new establishments for three years from labour laws. What is your take on this?
The present situation is an unprecedented situation not only in India but across the world. The notifications to increase work hours by 10-odd states or certain exemptions to the provisions of the Factory Act and the Industrial Dispute Act has been done by the state governments as per the powers given to them in the existing statute and they were not required to take any permission from the central government.
We should appreciate that such notifications have been done in light of the urgent situation created by the Covid 19. These seem to be temporary arrangements to get immediate respite from the situation and are not not long term labour reforms.
However, I believe that suspension of labour rights is not labour reforms. To my mind, both industry and worker are two sides of the same coin and the country can progress only if the rights of the workers are protected.
India is pitching itself as an alternate for foreign investors shifting out of China. What kind of a labour regime is the government proposing to offer?
Labour and industry are linked with an umbilical cord and is a classic example of a symbiotic relationship. Labour cannot benefit if industry is at loss and similarly industry cannot progress if the labour rights have been compromised and the labour is in distress.
For any industry to grow, we need to provide an amicable environment where a balance is created between the rights of workers and the demands for doing business. We visualise true labour reforms where on one hand we provide wage security, safety and social security to our workers and on the other hand provide a simple, transparent compliance mechanism to the industry so that it is a win- win situation for both worker and industry.
The government is already working on a roadmap on labour reforms since 2014. After exhaustive consultation with all stakeholders we have amalgamated all existing central labour laws into four labour codes. The first one i.e. wage code has already been passed by the Parliament and the other three labour codes are at different stages of Parliamentary procedure. I hope these will be passed by the Parliament.
Centre has been for years doing a mammoth exercise on labour codes. Is there a plan to fast-track rolling out of these codes?
The Code on Wages has already been passed by the Parliament. The other three labour codes have been introduced in the Parliament and were referred to the parliamentary standing committee. The PSC has given its report on Industrial Relations Code and Occupational Safety, Health and working Conditions Code. We have been examining the recommendations of the PSC with respect to these two codes and the modifications are being carried out. The report of the PSC is awaited with respect to the Social Security Code.
Further, in the backdrop of this crisis, certain modifications have also been deliberated like strengthening the legal provisions with respect to migrant workers and enhancing the ambit of social security for the workers.
The current crisis has brought out the fissures in our social support system for the unorganised labour force and the lack of any data on them. What do you propose to do?
Almost all the current labour laws cater to about 8 to 10 crore organised workers only. We need to focus on the 40 crore unorganised workers. This asymmetrical situation has to be rectified. A national database of the unorganised workers along with migrant workers, with complete information on their skill set, is required.
What kind of safety net is the government proposing to bring ?
We have introduced a social security code in the Parliament and await a report of the parliamentary standing committee on that. We have been also deliberating in the backdrop of the recent crisis on different ways to bring unorganised workers in the ambit of social security.
Both Centre and state governments are doing their bit to help out these migrant workers. Do you think there is scope to do more to help them at this time?
Initially coordinated efforts were made by the central and state governments to arrange for shelter, food, health facilities and provide financial assistance to migrant workers. Many states have done commendable work on this front.
We intended to keep migrant workers at their place to avoid spread of disease in small towns and rural areas. However, when restlessness among the migrant workers increased substantially with increase in the lockdown period, we had arranged safe transport through Shramik special trains and buses.
I believe we could have avoided giving political flavour to the problems of migrant workers. The central government has been working comprehensively on protecting both life and livelihood and has tried to respond effectively to mitigate the issues arising on a day to day basis.
There has been a persistent demand to give cash benefits of Rs 7,500 per month for three months. Is it under consideration and do you think it will help?
We intend to provide measures for growth and self-reliant India which even takes advantage of the adverse situation and builds on its strengths. As far as financial assistance is concerned, we started the relief measures by providing financial benefits to various vulnerable target groups in PMGKY.
Factories are facing acute labour shortage. How can you incentivise workers to come back to work?
A series of confidence building measures are being taken by the government and industry to bring back the worker to the workplace. We are deliberating upon creation of an electronic database of all the migrant workers along with information on their skill set so that industry can approach them with ease and without contractors or middlemen. This component can be part of our Nati ..
Problem of non-payment of wages has been prominent in the MSME sector. For this sector various measures have already been taken under Atma Nirbhar Bharat including providing a separate credit line for the establishments of this sector. We have believed in making our industry and establishments self-reliant. Other measures may also be considered as and when required in the changing scenario.