Labour Law Reforms are anti-labour and harmful to labourers’ interest

The Central Govt. is committed to make reforms in the labour laws. Recently, a  labour conference of all the States was convened at the central level. Looking at the  deliberations made therein, it can be said that reforms contemplated in the labour  laws will harm the rights of the labourers. Govt. will confer liberties to the owners to  lay off the employees or to close down the industry at their sweet will or volition and  will, moreover, encourage contract labour. Labour Ministry is of the opinion that in  order to generate more and more employment, a new law should be enacted by

merging three different important Acts such as Trade Unions Act, Industrial Disputes  Act and Industrial Employment Act. As per the new ideology, Govt. is thinking on  the lines such as engaging workers on contract basis, offer them job on casual or  piece meal basis, engage them on a fixed salary, offer different wage rates for the  same type of job and to extract work for 12 hours instead of 8 hours. By doing so,  naturally, the owners will stand to gain and this is what has been thought of.

Looking at the amendments proposed by the Government into these three Acts,
more than 70 % of the labourers will get excluded from the purview of the labour
laws. Because, an industry with less than 40 Nos. of workers will be exempted from
the labour laws. Where the number of workers are more than 300, then for closing
down that industry, it will not be mandatory to obtain permission from the Govt. Now
onwards, factories will be required to furnish labor law related information / data to
the Govt. only once in five years. In the Plants or factories, where less than 40 Nos.
of workers have been working, there will not be need to implement Minimum Wages
Act, or about its payment, Provident Fund Act, Factories Act, Insurance Act, Gratuity
Act, Bonus Act and Workers’ Compensation Act etc.

Distinctly visible, dangerous and anti-labour type laws are like this. The
number of minimum workers in the industrial sector making use of electricity coming
under the Factories Act which was 10 workers, will now stipulate 20 No. of workers
and in small industries not making use of electricity, the No. of workers under
consideration are now 40 Nos. instead of 20 Nos. In order to bring into trap of labour
laws, owners of large industrial units, it has been proposed to increase the No. of
workers from 100 to 300 Nos. For registration of labour unions, it has been proposed
that instead of 7 Nos. of workers, it shall be 10 % of total No. of workers or 100 Nos.
whichever is less. For overseeing implementation of labour laws, now there will not
be any Factory Inspector. Work shift will be of 12 hours instead of 8 hours. Salary
will be deposited in the bank account and hence there will not be any requirement of
disbursing salary on the 7th date.

In case, there will be implementation of such newly stipulated laws, then the
voice of the workers will be entirely strangulated or choked off. Since the number of
workers engaged in the unorganized sector in the country is more than 90 %, it is not
possible to predict as to what will be the fate of Minimum Wages Act, Unorganized
Labour Act, Bonded Labour Act, Migrant Labour Act, Child Labour Abolishment
Act etc. The reforms and defense at the place of employment itself which owed their
origins to the framing of labour laws and which came into being after a long drawn
out struggle will become in fructuous or extinct as a result of this new ideology.

Work lierty among female and male workers, security and human respect shall
certainly be defeated. In the country like India, the labour laws which were in force in
favor of the poor people were quite strong. Its main four pillars such as opportunities
for employment and income, protection of rights at the place of employment, social
security and the system of collective bargaining will be endangered. After attaining
independence, strict laws were framed in favor of the labourers owing to socialist
ideology. Benefits which were gained during the decade of 50s, as a result of
collective fight and hard work shall certainly suffer damage. With the N.D.A. Govt.
coming to power, everything is changed in favor of the industrialists and as a result,
needs of only market driven economy are thrust upon the labour class. With snatching
away of benefits of 90 % of the work force, what will be the condition of peace and
harmony in the country will become known in coming days only. If adequate salary
and benefits are not offered to the workers, then their purchasing power will
diminish. With that, economy will tilt in the direction of recession in place of growth
With the enactment of labour reforms, the Central Govt. has given rise to
problems such as very existence or survival of the workers. It is indeed good that
principal central Labour Unions of the country like Hind Mazdoor Sabha, Indian

National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) and labour unions of the Left parties have
come together to give a fight for this common cause. The thought of industrial policy
or development without proper social security will certainly bring about ruin and it is
not possible for the country to make progress without security and rights of the
workers. Before and after the independence, thanks to the fight by the labour unions,
workers got freedom from inhuman exploitation. For improving the work conditions
and making available benefits of social security, the labour laws had come into
existence. Reforms which have been contemplated in the labour laws at the behest of
the industrialists will once again push the labourers into the ditch of unsafe and
exploitative atmosphere. Country’s industrial development has become possible due
to labour laws and only because of its various provisions, present industrial peace
could be maintained. In fact, there is no need at all on the part of the N.D.A. Govt. to
make any labour reforms in a haste. Now that the ball is in the court of the Labour
Ministry, reforms will have to be brought about by taking labour unions into
confidence. No good would result merely by favoring the industrialists alone.
Country’s labour unions are very much displeased and disturbed with all the reforms
that have been contemplated and as such there is a need to put into practice a view of
“Development of all, with co-operation of all” by constituting joint committees of
Central and State Govt., Owners and Unions in the reforms process. If this does not
happen then leaders of the Labour Unions will have to canvass in and around the
industrial areas and labour colonies that the new reforms are anti-labour in nature and
will have to start activity of disseminating and spreading information about impacts
and ill-effects of such reforms. It will be necessary to think of a plan-of-action to
demonstratively protest by awakening labourers and enlisting their support and co-
operation. At the present, voice of both the labour Unions and that of the leaders of
the Society who have been known to talk in favor or support of the workers has been
strangled or choked. While the Voluntary Organizations have been silenced or muted,
there is a need for the labour unions to work in their own interest on the strength of
workers themselves.
(Author is a Chairman of Indian National Bank Employees Federation)


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