This post is written by Pragya Yadav, a third year law student at IIMT, IP University, Delhi.
What are labour laws?
Labour laws are those set of laws which deals with the rights, obligations and workings of the employers, employees and their organisations. These laws deal with several aspects of the relationship between the trade unions, employers and employees and define their rights, duties and obligations in the workplace. The labour can be categorised under two types- first, the collective labour law which deals with the relationship of the employer and employees in their respective workplace and; second, the individual labour law which relates to the personal rights and obligations of the employee. In India, the labour law is termed under the category of Industrial law and deals with the rules relating to the industries and the workers. Under the Constitution of India, the labour laws are mentioned in the Concurrent List (SEVENTH SCHEDULE) which means that both the central government and the state government may make laws relating to this subject.
Relaxations in the labour law
Due to the spread of Covid-19, the government of India has introduced a nationwide lockdown which has forced the government to initiate several changes in the country, one of which is the new relaxation introduced in the labour law.
Many states have passed new changes in the labour laws by the way of amendments. For instance, the Uttar Pradesh government has passed an ordinance which gives the businesses exclusion from many provisions of the labour laws. Exception has been given to the bonded labour law, deployment of women and children and timely payments of salaries in this ordinance announced by the government.
Another state to make changes to their labour laws are Madhya Pradesh. The government of Madhya Pradesh, along with an extension from 8 working hours to 12, has also excluded the businesses from several labour laws and their provisions such as Madhya Pradesh Industrial Relations Act and Industrial Disputes Act and Contract Labour Act for 1,000 days which gives them the freedom to hire and fire their employees at their will. Not only this but the government has also given the new factories exemption from the Factories Act, 1948 regarding the inspections from the Labour department and has permitted the flexibility to conduct third party inspections. This is not the end of the changes made by the Madhya Pradesh government in their labour laws. They have also granted an exemption to all the new factories from filing annual reports and have given them immunity from paying Rs.80 per worker every year to the Madhya Pradesh Welfare Board for the next 1,000 days.
States including, Rajasthan, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh have also decided to extend the working hours from 8 to 12 hours.
According to the state-issued statement, these changes to the labour laws have been made due to the slow down in the industrial and economic activities and in order to bring these activities back on track, new investment opportunities would need to be created along with fastening the business processes and productivity.
Concerns with the relaxations in the labour laws
The CPI(M)-linked Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) has criticised the exemptions made to the employers from various labour laws, and viewing these changes as “barbarous move to impose conditions of slavery on the working people who are actually creating wealth for the country, simultaneously suffering from brutal exploitation and loot by the capitalists and big-business”
The trade unions have condemned this move made by many states regarding the relaxation of the labour laws and have termed this decision as regressive.
This move will prove to be a hard decision for the labours especially in the times when the unemployment, not only in India but worldwide, is going to reach an all-time high. These changes will give freedom to employers to create an environment of exploitation and promote slavery for the workers in their perspective workplace. Moreover, far from being an economic and industrial reform, this relaxation will increase the number of informal workers in the country as they would be unable to have any social security. By making these new changes and providing relaxation in the labour law department, the states have taken away the very blanket of security from the workers which protected their rights.
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