The State government is considering sanctioning additional working hours for the manufacturing sector on the lines of what has already been done in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Punjab. While the discussion is to add two working hours to the current eight-hour shift, a decision on it is likely to be taken post April 28.
While trade unions have said that such a move was anti-labour, employers have insisted that additional working hours without overtime or additional pay is required to revive and recover industries from the current crisis.
Earlier this week, a tripartite meeting convened by the Labour Minister and attended by nine trade unions and representatives of industry bodies — FKCCI, KASSIA, and CII — failed with both sides sticking to their stand. A senior Labour Department official said: “A decision is yet to be arrived at as discussions are still continuing on the issue. Our trade unions have opposed it.”
Speaking to The Hindu , Labour Minister A. Shivaram Hebbar said: “The issue is to be discussed with Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa as it involves financial matters. Industries Minister Jagadish Shettar has also been kept in the loop. I have sent the proceedings of the meeting to the Chief Minister and Industries Minister. It will be discussed after April 28.”
An estimate shows Karnataka has about 6.5 lakh industries in small scale, medium and large sectors, accounting to about seven million labour force — 80 % of which are in small-scale sector.
Reasoning their opposition to the extended working hours, AITUC general secretary D.A. Vijayabhaskar said: “We believe that by increasing working hours of one shift to improve production, the second shift will be cancelled. This will lead to unemployment and reduced consumption with spending coming down in the post COVID-19 time.”
However, FKCCI president C.R. Janardhan said: “The industry bodies have assured that termination will not be resorted to. In fact, there will not be enough work for one shift when the industries open. Even before the COVID-19 scare, most industries were working on skeletal work and one shift. The situation would be far worse.”
Issues over wages
The industry bodies and trade unions are at loggerheads on another important issue of wages. While the industries have urged the government to pay salary of workers from ESI and PF funds, the unions have opposed digging into it.
FKCCI president C.R. Janardhan said: “We have proposed salary cuts based on the slabs. A worker getting less than ₹15,000 will get full salary. Small-scale industries work on a meagre 6% to 8 % profit margin. They will not be in a position to pay salaries in the current situation. None of the bailout packages announced by the governments so far has brought any benefit to small-scale sector. When the government does not come to our rescue, how can it insist on paying salaries?”