Kerala will not dilute labour laws, says Labour Minister

Workers’ unions irked by ‘anti-labour’ moves of States such as UP, MP, Gujarat

Updated - May 09, 2020 10:14 pm IST

Published - May 09, 2020 07:48 pm IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

Making clear that Kerala has not taken any steps to dilute labour laws, Labour Minister T.P. Ramakrishnan says the government is taking necessary steps to promote investment while protecting the rights of workers.

Speaking to The Hindu on Saturday, he said the State had taken several steps in recent weeks to address issues faced by employers. Some states, including Uttar Pradesh (UP), Madhya Pradesh (MP) and Gujarat, had decided this week to suspend major labour laws for a few years to promote investment in light of the COVID-19 epidemic.

“We are living through times when investors and workers need to have friendly relations and mutual understanding for us to forge ahead. Any step to promote investment should not be at the cost of denying the rights of workers. The government has now taken decisions that would make it easier for businesses to get licences and start functioning,” said Mr. Ramakrishnan.

INTUC State unit president R. Chandrasekharan told The Hindu that stipulating 12-hour working hours at a time when the country was facing the biggest job losses in history was condemnable.

“Even before the pandemic, India was having the highest job loss rate in 45 years. In addition, we have lakhs who lost their jobs overseas and are coming back, as well as the several migrant workers who are jobless now. Instead of providing more jobs to them, the attempt now is to burden the remaining employees with more work. The UP, MP and Gujarat governments are violating the Constitution by making fundamental changes to labour laws enacted by Parliament. The INTUC will raise strong protests against this,” said Mr. Chandrasekharan.

CPI(M) Rajya Sabha MP Elamaram Kareem, a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour, said the decisions of the UP, MP and Gujarat governments were a continuation of the Modi government’s attempts to water down labour laws over the past six years.

“Earlier this year, the Centre brought in the Labour Code on Industrial Relations, 2019, consolidating 44 existing labour laws into four codes out of which one, the Wage code, was passed in Rajya Sabha with even the Congress supporting it. In the standing committee discussions on the other codes, the Left and some parties moved amendments and dissent notes, while the Congress did not. The latest moves by the States come in such circumstances, irking the INTUC and even the RSS-affiliated BMS who have made their opposition clear.,” said Mr. Kareem.

The trade union leaders said nowhere in the world had steps been taken to clamp down on workers’ rights following crisis situations. On the contrary, labour-friendly decisions were taken to help kickstart the economy.

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