Factories Act Amendment Bill being revised

Following the recommendations of the parliamentary standing committee on labour, the Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE) has prepared a revised draft of Factories Act (Amendment) Bill 2014. The revised draft is expected to submitted to the Minister of Labour and Employment Bandaru Dattatreya in a week, said officials.

The standing committee headed by BJP MP Virender Kumar in its report has rejected the amendment's proposal to empower state governments to enhance the threshold level of employment from 10 to 20 workers (in case of factories using power) and from 20 to 40 workers (for factories not using power) citing the reason that this will leave 70 percent of factory establishments in the country outside the purview of the Central Act dealing with health, safety and work conditions in factories. It has asked the central government to reconsider other changes proposed in the Bill related to work conditions as well. Officials, however, declined to specify details of the changes being considered.

"We have prepared a revised draft incorporating some of the changes suggested by the committee while some have not been included. The final draft will be presented to the minister next week, after which it will to the cabinet for its approval," said a senior official in MoLE.

On central trade union's disposition that there were no tripartite consultations on the 2014 Amendment Bill in the three years since 2011, the committee has asked the MoLE respond to the contention. Fresh tripartite consultation may now take place once the minister approves this, said officials.

The Factories Bill (Amendment) Bill 2014 amending the 1948 Act was introduced in the Lok Sabha on August 7, 2014. It did not come up for discussion in the Lok Sabha in the winter session as the standing committee report on the Bill was pending. The committee presented its report on December 23, 2014.

"..More than 70 percent of the factory establishments in the Country will be out of the coverage of the Factories Act and workers will be at the mercy of employers on every aspect of their service conditions, rights and protective provisions laid down under the Act..," noted the committee in the 116-page report while rejecting the proposal to increase the threshold level of employment defined by the 1948 Act.

The committee noted that the Bill's proposal to amend section 56 of the Act to increase the spread over of the working hours from the existing 10.5 hours to 12 hours may lead to harrassment of workers. It has questioned the proposal to amend sections 64 and 65 of the Act relating to increase in overtime hours from the existing 50 hours per quarter to 100 hours, extendable by another 25 hours saying the government could instead make special provisions for increase in permissible overtime hours for factories catering to seasonal spikes in demand, as doing this across the board may "aggravate the unemployment problem."

While the Bill seeks to remove the definition of "hazardous process" in the Principal Act and substitute it with "hazardous substance", the committee has stated that there may be hazardous processes in certain industries where substance is not always involved and thus instead, the government should review the list of hazardous industries from time to time.

"Instead of implementing thye law better, several of the amendments legalise what is going on given the lack of implementation. The committee unanimously rejected the proposal to increase the threshold level and it has asked the government to revisit the other clauses on overtime, on spreadover of work," said Rajya Sabha MP Tapan Sen, a member of the standing committee.

The central trade unions have alleged that after Dr. Narendra Jhadav, the then member of the Planning Commission and member of a three-member committee on the proposed amendment, held discussions with the unions on January 19, 2011, February 10, 2011 and March 31, 2011, no fresh consultations were held on the Bill introduced in August 2014. This amounted to violation of the International Labour Organization Conventions No.144 on Tripartism, which has been ratified by the union government, they alleged.

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Printable version | May 16, 2021 3:26:17 AM |

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