Government proposes modifications to Act
In the first move of its kind, the Karnataka Government is considering relaxations to sections of the Factories Act, 1948, which deal with work hours in industrial set-ups.
If what is currently a proposal before the Government comes through, Section 54 of the Act, which places a ceiling on work hours in a day (including breaks) at nine hours, will be extended to 10 hours.
Though the notion of work hours has undergone enormous changes following economic liberalisation, it is for the first time that the law is being amended in Karnataka to extend the limit on work hours. States are entitled to make some amendments in the legislation as Labour is in the concurrent list.
H. Srinivasaiah, Director, Department of Factories and Boilers, told The Hindu that the relaxation, if implemented, will be subject to the condition in the International Labour Organisation's convention on work hours, which says that a person cannot be made to work for more than 48 hours a week. “This will basically help factories that work with a five-day schedule, where nine hours of work a day will add up to less than 48 hours,” he said.
Mr. Srinivasaiah said that a proposal to modify Section 56 of the Act on “spread over” hours (total hours a worker can spend on a factory premises, inclusive of all the rest intervals) available to industries is also under “active consideration” by the Government. It may soon be stretched from the existing 10.5 hours to 12 hours. The ceiling fixed on the total number of overtime hours in a quarter, of 75 hours, may also be extended.
Night shift for women
The section that bars women from working in night shifts is also likely to change. The Government is contemplating changes to Section 66 of the Act, which forbids women from being on the premises beyond 7 p.m.
This provision has already been struck down by a few high courts on the ground that it is in violation of Article 14 and 16, which ensure equality before law and prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. “We are considering whether we can remove the section that prohibits night shifts, while imposing some restrictions to ensure that women are safe and not exploited,” said Mr. Srinivasaiah. “We have sought advice from the Centre on the issue,” he added.