Parliament proceedings | Codes on occupational safety, social security and industrial relations introduced in Lok Sabha

They could face judicial scrutiny, says Tharoor. CPI(M) wants them to be referred to Standing Committee

Updated - September 20, 2020 12:03 am IST

Published - September 19, 2020 10:01 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Representational image.

Representational image.

The government on Saturday introduced three Bills in the Lok Sabha to amalgamate laws on social security, occupational safety and industrial relations, which would, among other changes, allow companies with less than 300 workers to terminate employment without prior approval and provide gig and platform workers social security schemes.

Labour and Employment Minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar introduced the Industrial Relations Code, 2020, the Occupational Safety, Health & Working Conditions Code, 2020 and Code on Social Security, 2020 after some Opposition MPs opposed them citing the lack of public consultation.

Mr. Gangwar also withdrew the 2019 versions of the Bills, which were introduced and then referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour. Mr. Gangwar said the government had accepted 74% of the 233 recommendations of the committee. The three Bills are part of the government’s labour law reforms agenda, of which the first, the Code on Wages, was passed in 2019. He said 29 labour laws are to be amalgamated into four codes.

Opposing the introduction of the Bills, Congress MP Manish Tewari said the government had not followed the pre-legislative consultative policy that was put in place in February 2014 of putting all Bills in the public domain for 30 days for comments. He said the Bills had undergone substantive changes after being referred to the standing committee and the stake-holders should have been consulted again. Congress MP from Kerala Shashi Tharoor said the Bills could face “judicial scrutiny”. CPI(M) MP A.R. Ariff said the Bills should be sent to the Standing Committee as many MPs couldn’t attend the earlier Standing Committee meetings due to COVID-19.

Mr. Gangwar said the Bills had been drafted after nine tripartite consultations, four sub-committee meetings, 10 regional conferences and 10 inter-ministerial consultations. He said 6,000 comments had been received after the Bills were put in the Ministry’s website for two-three months, after which they were referred to the committee.

The Industrial Relations Code Bill mandates companies with 300 or more workers to prepare and submit to the government standing orders regarding the conditions of service, including shift timings and termination of employment. As of now, this applies to establishment with over 100 employees, under the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946, which is among the three Acts the Bill proposes to subsume.

The Social Security Code Bill proposes to bring unorganised sector, gig workers and platform workers under the ambit of social security schemes, including life and disability insurance, health and maternity benefits, provident fund and skill upgradation.

Among the 13 Acts the Occupational Safety Code proposes to subsume is the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979, which has been highlighted during the recent migrant workers crisis due to COVID-19.

While the Act covered those migrant workers who were hired through contractors, the Code covers those who are directly employed as well. The Code has also been extended to those working animation, cartoon depiction, digital production and web serials by including these categories in the definition of audio-visual production.

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