Labour Reforms – Balancing industry and labour interests

Bhopal

The relationship between labourers, employment providers such as industrialists, factory or shop owners, labour organizations and government is determined through labour laws. This law states that what is the minimum wage of the labourers, how many hours they will have to work, what facilities will be given to them at the workplace. In order to protect the interests of employment providers, rules and procedures for resolving disputes with labourers have also been prescribed in these laws. Altering these laws is like walking on the edge of the sword. If all the demands of the labour organizations are accepted, then it will be difficult for the industries to run, while the employment providers will accept all the demands and the way of exploitation of labourers will be opened. It is the responsibility of labour laws to protect labourers from exploitation of industrialists, while protecting industries from illegal pressures of labourers.

The global economy has shaken with the Corona crisis. Industrial production has come to a standstill. A large number of labourers have migrated from industries. Many companies and industries are looking for new destinations from many countries where they have cheap and efficient labour, natural resources, good law and order and industry friendly legislation. Therefore, to give a boost to the Indian economy, the Central Government has started a campaign of comprehensive labour reforms. In order to attract investment it was necessary to remove complex laws and red tape. In the same sequence, Madhya Pradesh also announced labour reforms under the stated goal of creating self-dependent Madhya Pradesh.

There have already been 32 amendments made to the 4 state laws and 13 central laws in Madhya Pradesh. 30 services for Ease of Doing Business have been brought under the MP Public Service Guarantee Act. Provision for fixed time employment, provision of self certification for filing returns, provision of single window clearance in Madhya Pradesh. Provisions for compounding of violations have been made under certain sections of the Industrial Disputes Act and all sections of the Contract Labour Act, Motor Transport Workers Act and Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act.

The proposal of exempting such factories which are operated without electric power are fully exempted and those which are operated by electric power and having up to 50 labourers, from the provisions of the Factories Act has been sent to the Central Government. The contract labour act will be applicable to the labour contractor only if he employs more than 50 labourers. Earlier this labour number was 20. This proposal has also been sent to the Government of India. In the new proposals, third party inspection has been arranged in the industries. In order to protect small institutions from government intervention, inspection is banned in organizations employing less than 50 labourers without prior permission of the Labour Commissioner. Online registration of registration licenses and returns has been made in all labour regulations. Registration and licensing has now been guaranteed to be granted in 1 day under several Labour Acts. The license renewal period has now been changed from one year to 10 years.

The daily working hours of the labourers in the factories have been increased from 8 hours to 12 hours. Working hours will be allowed for a maximum of 72 hours. The additional 4 hours of work can be taken at the will of the labourer by giving him overtime twice the normal rate. Now shops and commercial establishments can be kept open from 6 am to 12 pm. The newly set up factories are exempted from the relevant labour laws for 1 thousand days. Many provisions in the Factories Act have been relaxed for 3 months. This will reduce government interference in them. Exemptions in working hours will increase the production, while overtime will increase the income of labourers.

The relaxation of certain provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 will make it easier for the employment provider to employ labourers, expel them for not providing satisfactory service. It will not be able to interfere with the labour department and the judiciary. Now the MP Industrial Planning Act 1961 will come into force only when the number of labourers is 100 or more. Earlier this number was 50. This will provide relief to small and medium industries. Newly established industries have been exempted from contributing to the labour welfare board. Textiles, iron, steel, electrical goods, etc. have been exempted from the provisions of the MP Industrial Relations Act.

The specialty of labour reforms in Madhya Pradesh is to be balanced. While on one hand it creates an environment for industrial investment, on the other hand there is no compromise on the interests of labourers. The benefits given to the labourers under various acts are preserved intact. Women labourers will get equal pay for equal work and 26 weeks maternity leave pay. Employment of child labourers will be restricted. The labourers will also have the right to the new minimum wage and dearness allowance and weekly leave. No compromise has been made with the provisions regarding the health and safety of the labourers. Provisions relating to compensation to labourers in the event of an accident during work will remain in force. It will be necessary to adopt a predetermined procedure in the closure and retrenchment of labourers, in which in the event of retrenchment, it will be necessary to give 3 months information or salary. Their labour organizations will be able to discuss with the employers on behalf of the labourers. The labourers will also get the benefit of State Insurance Hospital. Similarly, the benefits due to the Sambal Yojana and various types of labourers’ welfare boards will also continue to be received by the labourers as per eligibility.

These balanced efforts of the State Government will attract new investment and will encourage industrial activities. Only through these measures will the employment of existing labourers be protected and new employment opportunities will be available.

Author is an officer of Indian Administrative Service and Additional Secretary to CM