As expected, the government has gone about changing labour laws. While the UPA backed off in the face of resistance by trade unions, NDA-II, with an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha, appears to have turned deaf ears to consultations, prompting a helpless trade union leader to confess, “They meet, listen, seem to agree with our views, give assurances and then go and do exactly what they had initially proposed.” The ruling BJP’s very own trade union wing, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), along with the AITUC, CITU and several others across the country have been yelling themselves hoarse over the labour reforms proposed by the Centre.
“If we thought UPA-II was influenced by the industry, the current government is being driven by a corporate agenda,” says Amarjeet Kaur, CPI national secretary. While similar amendments were proposed by the UPA in 2008, officials in the ministry say it was stalled at the last minute due to strict opposition. However, in the new government, there has been no more discussions. Even as the proposed reforms were opposed in a consultation with unions and other bodies in June, notifications for reforms were put on the ministry’s website in July.
The Union Cabinet also approved amendments to four labour laws in Rajasthan. These amendments, besides emasculating trade unions, aim to make it easy for employers to hire and fire workers. Several other BJP-led states including MP, Haryana, Punjab, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra are now set to follow Rajasthan. The Parliament has also passed amendments to the Apprentice Act 1961, which has removed the provision of imprisonment and other penal clauses for employers. Changes prescribed in the Factories Amendment Bill, 2014, seek to double the threshold of the number of workers required for a unit to be classified as a factory. “This will effectively keep out nearly 70 per cent of the factories and their workers out of the scope of any labour laws,” says Gurudas Dasgupta, AITUC general secretary.
Under consideration are also amendments to the Mines Act 1952, Minimum Wages Act 1948, Child Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act 1986. Trade unionists claim the Centre is now contemplating a ‘floor-level wage’ which will make parameters of minimum wage redundant. Meanwhile, the new Union labour minister Dattatreya, is labouring to make his presence felt on social media with his five tweets in the 40-odd days since he assumed office on November 10. One of them reads, ‘Travelling in Delhi Metro’, with multiple photos and videos.
@nstomarminister | 75 tweets | 393 followers
“Rail budget aane wale samay mein railway ke vistar aur yatrion ki suvidha wa desh ke vikas mein meel ka patthar sabit hoga.”