Parliamentary panel questions dilution of labour laws

Standing Committee writes to States on changes brought in amid lockdown.

May 12, 2020 10:22 pm | Updated November 28, 2021 12:07 pm IST - New Delhi

A man works in a workshop manufacturing components for industrial pipes in Mumbai, India, November 30, 2016. REUTERS/Shailesh Andrade     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

A man works in a workshop manufacturing components for industrial pipes in Mumbai, India, November 30, 2016. REUTERS/Shailesh Andrade TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

The Parliamentary Committee on Labour has written to State governments demanding an explanation on dilution of labour laws during the ongoing coronavirus ( COVID-19 ) pandemic.

Committee Chairman and BJD leader Bhartruhari Mahtab said any amendments to the law would need legislative sanction. The issue will be taken up, whenever the committee next meets.

Need legislative nod

Speaking to The Hindu , Mr. Mahtab said, “We have written to the States seeking information related to the changes they have made in labour laws. They have utilised two instruments — using the executive order or ordinance. Whatever be the instrument, it has to get the sanction of the legislature and subsequently it will be scrutinised in the court of law.”

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The Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Gujarat State governments have modified labour laws in a bid to attract investments and restart economic activity hit by the nationwide lockdown. Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat have also amended their Factories Acts and increased the work hours from 8 to 12 hours a day or 72 hours per week.

Asked whether these changes by the States while the country is battling the COVID-19 pandemic and Parliament has not met since March 22, is a case of executive overreach, Mr. Mahtab said, “I would say as per the Disaster Management Authority Act, in this time of pandemic, executive takes precedence in the decision-making processes.”

Madhya Pradesh pushes working hours from eight to 12 in factories

However, he added, “But my only concern here is that Parliament is not in suspended animation; legislators have a role to play both inside and outside Parliament and they can very well do that.”

Revising laws

The Narendra Modi-led NDA government has been working to codify 44 existing labour laws into four codes. The Code on Wages Bill was cleared recently. The Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Condition, Code on Industrial Relations and Code on Social Security are before the Lok Sabha.

Shameful that BJP-ruled States amending labour laws to lure foreign investors: Congress

Several Opposition parties have severely criticised the move by BJP-run States to suspend labour laws. Ten Central trade unions on Monday said they were considering approaching the International Labour Organization (ILO) against the move.

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