Industry bodies demand suspension of labour laws for 2-3 yrs, 12-hour work hours

Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar on Friday held a webinar with CII, FICCI and Assocham, among others to discuss issues like restarting economic activities, job creation, etc.
Labourers working
Labourers working
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Employers' associations on Friday demanded suspension of labour laws barring some key provisions across the country for next two-three years to help the industry come out of the crisis induced by the lockdown to combat COVID-19 pandemic.

Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar on Friday held a webinar with employers' bodies such as CII, FICCI and Assocham to discuss issues like restarting economic activities, job creation and measures to improve the situation of MSMEs to enable them to discharge their liabilities under labour laws.

The industry bodies suggested a slew of measures and sought 'relaxations' such as increasing working hours to 12 hours per day from the existing 8 hours per day to help them revive operations, according to a release by the Labour Ministry. The concept of increasing working hours of employees will face much resistance as these regulations were brought in after years of protests against exploitation.

The release said the industry associations suggested "to suspend the labour laws for the next 2-3 years except for provisions like minimum wages, bonus and statutory dues, to help the industry come out of the present crisis".

Labour is a concurrent subject and states can amend certain labour laws for their regions.

The industry bodies also suggested "to increase working hours to 12 hours per day", the release said.

They also demanded that power to the industry may be supplied at subsidized rates.

"Instead of different zones like red, orange and green, there should be (2) zones viz. containment zone and non-containment zones to facilitate easy movement of workers and goods. Allow all activities in the non-containment zones."

The employers' organisations also sought relaxation of the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act to treat the lockdown period as lay-off.

The suggestion follows the Uttar Pradesh government's move to bring an ordinance on Thursday to suspend all labour laws barring some provisions for the next three years to give relief to the industry hit by the existing lockdown.

UP’s move was soon followed by Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, which also suspended labour laws.

However, many slammed the move by the three BJP-ruled states, saying that this will lead to more exploitation.

Employers wanted that keeping in view the difficulties being faced by the industry and liquidity crisis, the wages paid by to workers may be covered under expenses under CSR funds.

They asked to increase the maximum limit of 33 per cent workforce to at least 50 per cent of the workforce after the reopening of the industry to allow an increase of goods and services to the optimum level.

Industry bodies asked the minister to waive the PMGKY's condition of covering only those enterprises whose 90 per cent or more employees were drawing monthly wages less than Rs 15,000 under the Scheme so that more workers can be covered under the scheme.

They said that the status of migrant labour is a matter of serious concern.

Employers' bodies suggested that a programme may be formulated for return of these migrant labour to work by providing counselling to alleviate their fears on COVID-19, providing financial help for their transportation, providing free groceries for about six months, etc.

They also suggested to create a databank of migrant labour and to create a national epidemic fund to help the workers of the unorganised sector and daily wagers.

They also pitched for reducing social security costs on both employees and employers.

Concluding the discussion, Labour Secretary H L Samariya stated that the focus should now be on reviving the industry and opening of economy, to fully revive the economic activities and employment opportunities.

He assured that the Ministry of Labour and Employment is committed to provide all the help in case of any problems faced by the industry and also to protect the interests of the workers.

As many as 12 employers bodies participated in the webinar including CII, FICCI, PHDCCI and ASSOCHAM.

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