Government aims to move five more reforms to labour laws

The government is striving to introduce five more labour reform legislations in the winter session of Parliament, including the bills to introduce a new wage and industrial relations code and amend laws governing child labour and bonus payments.

These are in addition to the amendments to the Factories Act of 1948 that the government had listed for introduction in the Lok Sabha last week, but eventually wasn’t tabled.

The only new bill to be introduced in Parliament’s lower house so far in this session is the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2015.

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi said on Saturday that the Opposition party with 45 MPs in the Lok Sabha would not allow dilution of labour laws by the NDA government just as it had thwarted its attempts at changing the land acquisition law.

“If time permits, we want to at least table the Bills to introduce the Wage and Industrial Relations codes, the new law for small factories and the amendments to the Child Labour and Payment of Bonus Acts,” a senior official in the union labour and employment ministry told The Hindu.

“We may not be able to pass all these bills in the time left in this session, but if the bills have to be studied by parliamentary committees, at least that process should start once they are tabled,” the official added, stressing that the key thrust of these reforms was creating more jobs and improving the ease of doing business.

The government has officially listed the Payment of Bonus (Amendment) Bill, 2015 for consideration and passing in the Lok Sabha this week, which would be the penultimate week of the winter session.

The law is being changed to make more employees eligible for bonus and double such payments. It proposes to raise the salary ceiling for statutory bonus payments to Rs 21,000 per month from Rs 10,000 specified under the 1965 law.

The Small Factories (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Services) Bill, for instance, seeks to make it easier for manufacturing firms to employ upto 40 workers by exempting them from compliance with six labour laws which include the Factories Act, the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947 and the Shops and Establishment Acts of respective states.

The code on wages aims to replace four different laws pertaining to salaries — the Payment of Wages Act of 1936, the Minimum Wages Act of 1948, Payment of Bonus Act, 1965 and the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976. Similarly, the code on industrial relations would substitute three different laws — the Trade Unions Act of 1926, the Industrial Disputes Act and the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act of 1946.

The government has also proposed to introduce the Child Labour (Protection and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012 in the Rajya Sabha this week. The Bill proposes that children below fourteen years of age may only be allowed to work in their own family enterprises.

It also bars employment of children in hazardous occupations till the age of 18 years. Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi has, however, raised concerns about the Bill reducing the list of such occupations from 83 to just three – mining, inflammable substances and explosives and hazardous occupations as per the Factories Act.

This would leave the door open for children to be employed in sectors that are largely family-run like the carpet industry, embroidery and agriculture, Mr. Satyarthi said at a national consultation on the law in November.

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