Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin on Monday said that the State’s recent controversial Bill, amending the Factories Act, 1948, to enable extended working hours in select factories, has been withdrawn.
Addressing May Day celebrations organised by the ruling DMK-affiliated Labour Progressive Federation (LPF) at the May Day Park in Chennai, Mr. Stalin said that all the MLAs would soon be told about the withdrawal of the Bill.
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Owing to strong opposition from trade unions and political parties following the adoption of the Bill by the Assembly on April 21, senior Ministers had held talks with trade unions two days later, on April 24. Mr. Stalin had announced on the same day that further action on the Bill had been put on hold. The amendment would have enabled exemption to industries from the present norms on maximum work hours, holidays and overtime wages as defined in the Act.
Mr. Stalin said if the introduction of a Bill required courage, its withdrawal in two days without any hesitation, also required courage. He said this was in contrast with how the Union government dealt with the protests against the Farm Bills. He said the Union government did not bother about the protests, and left the protesting farmers to suffer in harsh conditions, in summer and winter, leading to the loss of several lives.
In a reference to severe measures taken by the erstwhile AIADMK government led by Jayalalithaa in 2003 to suppress the government employees’ strike, Mr. Stalin said, “You know who felt happy by dismissing lakhs of government employees overnight through the ESMA (Essential Services Maintenance Act) and TESMA (Tamil Nadu Essential Services Maintenance Act)”.
Similarly, in a reference to the killing of 13 persons in police firing during the anti-Sterlite protests in Thoothukudi in 2018 when the AIADMK was in power, he alleged that those who were responsible for the firing, and a section of media amplifying their voices, campaigned to turn the amendment to the Factories Act against the government. “However, the workers understood their sinister plans,” he said.
Mr. Stalin pointed out that though the amendment was brought in by the ruling DMK, it was amusing that even the LPF, affiliated to the party, had opposed it. “I am obliged to appreciate them for this. It proves how democratic the DMK is,” he said.
The CM reiterated the government’s earlier stance that the amendment was brought in only with the objective of attracting huge investments to Tamil Nadu, and thereby generating employment for thousands of youngsters. He said the amendment did not apply to all factories, but only to a select few, subject to certain conditions and provisions to protect the welfare of the workers. He said the government would never compromise on anything related to workers’ welfare and it wanted both the industry and the workers to flourish.
Emphasising that the DMK was always committed to workers’ welfare, Mr. Stalin recalled that it was former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi who passed an order that all workers be given a holiday, with wages, on May Day, apart from a number of other welfare measures.