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Unions toughen stand on reforms

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Labour Ministry to discuss five proposals in the Code on Industrial Relations Bill with trade unions

Central trade unions continue to oppose the government’s plans to ease retrenchment norms and to restrict trade union membership under the Industrial Disputes Act, reiterating their stand at a meeting held by new Labour and Employment Minister Santosh Gangwar to discuss the contentious proposals on Thursday.

“People may have their own political compulsions but here, everybody has to speak in one voice. We will ensure trade unions come on board,” Mr. Gangwar told The Hindu after the meeting.

A Group of Ministers on labour reforms led by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley asked the Labour Ministry to discuss five contentious proposals in the Code on Industrial Relations Bill with central trade unions, sources said.

Those included allowing bigger companies to retrench workers without the government’s permission, increasing the severance pay by three times, restricting outsiders’ role in trade union leadership, changing the definition of ‘workers’ and procedure for recognition of trade unions.

The meeting on the proposed Industrial Relations Code was Mr. Gangwar’s first meeting with representatives from ten central trade unions after taking charge recently.

‘Want Code scrapped’

“Our stand remains the same. We want the proposed Code on Industrial Relations Bill to be scrapped,” Centre of Indian Trade Unions general secretary Tapan Sen said.

“The government should discuss the industrial relations Bill in full detail. It should not interfere [with] the trade union composition and [not] allow lesser factories to retrench workers without the government’s nod,” BMS organisation secretary (north-central region) Pawan Kumar said.

With the Centre’s plans to amend the Industrial Disputes Act 1947 taking time, States are going ahead with their own labour law changes to ease retrenchment norms in a bid to attract business locally with Assam joining the race recently.

Since labour is a concurrent subject, the Assam Assembly passed amendments to the Industrial Disputes Act to allow companies with a staff of up to 300 to retrench workers without government permission, up from the present requirement of up to 100 workers – giving industries with large workforce more flexibility in retrenchment. However, the Assam government’s approved Bill will need the Centre’s nod to become a law.

‘3 Codes into one’

The Central government has proposed similar provisions in the Code on Industrial Relations Bill. The proposed Bill will combine the Trade Unions Act, 1926, the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946, and the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, into a single code.

Till date, apart from Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand have allowed larger firms to retrench workers without seeking its permission by bringing their own amendments to the Industrial Disputes Act, according to a senior labour ministry official said.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 4:19:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/business/unions-toughen-stand-on-reforms/article19693992.ece

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