Madhya Pradesh on Thursday allowed employers to increase working hours in factories by four hours, from eight to 12. It has also allowed up to 72 hours a week in overtime.
“The increased working hours are applicable only if employees are willing to work. And they must be paid for overtime,” Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said, announcing changes to labour laws.
The newly opened industrial units can organise third-party inspections. They will be exempted from the requirement of keeping registers and inspections. And industries can change shifts at their convenience.
New industries will be exempted from all Sections of the Factories Act, 1948, except for Sections 6, 7, 8, 21-41 (H), 59, 67, 68, 79, 88 and 112. “...we have relaxed the Sections for three months and proposed to the Centre to extend the relaxation for 1,000 days,” Mr. Chouhan said in a live video address from Bhopal.
The new units will be exempted from the entire Section in the Act on ‘right of workers’ that empowers workers to obtain details of their health and safety at work. Further, the employer is not bound to provide to workers ventilation, lighting, toilets, sitting facilities, first aid boxes, protective equipment, canteens, crèches, weekly holidays and interval of rest. Not even providing drinking water is mandatory now.
Further, maintenance of register of adult and child workers and allowing for advance payments will not apply to new units. They can even get away without maintaining cleanliness on premises and ensuring safe disposal of waste and effluents. The entire chapter on ‘Penalties and Procedure’, fixing responsibility on employers in case of the violation of the Act, will not apply to the new units. Instead of 61 registers, just one will be maintained.
Mr. Chouhan said the aim was to generate employment opportunities, encourage industrial activities, bring in investments, protect the rights of workers, bring about transparency in the administrative procedures, re-rail industries hit by COVID-19 and convert the challenges of a distressed economy into opportunities.
“Many firms across the world want to relocate now. And we want to invite them here. Industries have been demanding labour reforms for long. The changes, with workers’ rights kept in mind, became necessary as investors were stuck in a web of laws and red-tapism,” Mr. Chouhan said.
The government has said factory registration will be done in a day now, instead of 30 days. “If the official concerned doesn’t give the go-ahead within a day, he will have to pay a fine to the aggrieved firm,” said Mr. Chouhan. And the licence should be renewed after 10 years, instead of a year.
Units will be exempted for 1,000 days from all provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, except Section 25, which prohibits financial aid for illegal strikes and lockouts. Organisations will be able to keep workers in service at their convenience. The Labour Department or the labour court will not interfere in the action taken by industries. “Several issues will be resolved without going to court. We are sending a proposal to the Centre,” he said.
After amendments to the Madhya Pradesh Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1961, industries employing up to 100 workers will be exempted from it. “This way, workers will cooperate in production with sincerity,” the Public Relations Department said.
After an ordinance to amend the Madhya Pradesh Labour Welfare Fund Act, 1982, newly established factories will be exempted from making a contribution of ₹80 for each worker every year to the Labour Welfare Board for the next 1,000 days. They will also be exempted from yearly returns, the Public Relations Department said on Tuesday.
Now, shops under the Shops and Establishments Act, 1958, will open from 6 a.m. to midnight. “This will also help to maintain physical distancing...,” said Mr. Chouhan. Organisations employing less than 50 workers would be inspected only after permission was taken from the Labour Commissioner.
The State government has proposed to the Centre to change the definition of factories. Those using electricity in the manufacturing process and employing at least 20 workers should be registered, against the existing condition of those using electricity and employing at least 10. And without the use of electricity, the limit should be increased to 40 workers from 20.
After an amendment to the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970, contractors employing less than 50 workers will be able to work without registration. A proposal has been sent to the Central government for amendments to this Act, the Public Relations Department said.