The Karnataka government on Thursday announced a major rehaul of labour laws, including the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970, and the Factories Act, 1948.
While trade unions have strongly opposed it, the government has said that the changes have been proposed to help industries hit by COVID-19 and to attract investments under the New Industrial Policy, 2020-2025, which was passed by the Cabinet on Thursday.
Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister J. Madhuswamy announced that the changes to the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 will exempt industries that employ up to 300 workers from the provisions of the Act, raising the limit from the current exemption of those having up to 100 workers.
“The overtime limit per quarter will be increased from 75 to 125 hours with the amendments to the Factories Act, 1948. These were discussed in length at the Cabinet before arriving at the decision,” the Law Minister said.
Further, the changes to the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970, will exempt factories employing up to 50 workers from seeking licences, up from the 20 workers now.
In another change, the applicability of the Factories Act, 1948, has been changed. Earlier, those factories, with electricity connection and employing 10 workers or more, came under under the Act. Now the limit has been raised to 20 workers.
“Several industries are on the brink of closure and large industries are also in trouble. Industrial associations have been talking to us. Today several labour laws have to be amended and we have taken steps in this direction to initiate reforms,” Industries Minister Jagadish Shettar said in defence of the government’s decision.
While Sections 64 and 65 of the Factories Act, 1948, which deal with exemptions to industries, will also be amended, he said that the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946 will be amended to change rules pertaining to contract employment and fixed term employment.
“The periodicity of the revision of minimum wages will be fixed under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 and will be linked to factors like inflation and the consumer price index,” he added.
Further, he said that an amendment has been made under the Factories Act, 1948, to allow women to work in night shifts, between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m., in the factories registered.
“The proposed changes will put a lot of factories out of the purview of these labour legislations, which means workers will not get any protection from the government, and employers will be free to hire and fire at their discretion,” said M. Sathyanand, secretary, AITUC, Bengaluru.