Lower House passes three labour Codes : 24-09-2020

The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed the three labour Codes, including the Industrial Relations (IR) Code 2020, which contains a clutch of industry-friendly proposals.

The Social Security Code proposes to extend, in a phased manner, social security benefits to all employees and workers in the country (around 50 crore at last count), including those in the unorganised sector.

The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code deals with the duties of the employer in respect of workplace safety and working conditions, and makes issue of employment letter a must for all employees, a move that will promote formalisation of employment.

The key proposals in the IR Code that will ease labour law rigidities are the following: A much larger segment of firms – as the Bill becomes law, those with workers up to 300 as against 100 now will be able to resort to closure and retrenchment without prior government permission (the state governments are to be authorised to allow this via notification), endorsement by law of the already-in-force full-benefit fixed-term employment scheme that gels with the business pattern of industries that witness seasonal spurt in activities; requirement of mandatory 14-day notice for strikes and lock-outs will now apply to all units, not just public utility firms; proliferation of trade unions to be curbed, as only those unions with support of more than 51% of the workers on the muster roll of the unit concerned will have the right to labour terms with the management. All the three codes have been vetted by the Parliamentary standing committee.

The Code on Wages Bill, 2019, which proposes universalisation of minimum wages, was passed by Parliament last year. The Modi government had announced its plan to amalgamate 44 central labour Acts into four codes in 2014, with the aim of simplifying the laws and ensuring a conducive and harmonious environment for doing business.
The new IR Code also seeks encourage resolution of disputes through tripartite negotiations. Definition of ‘strike’ is also being amended to include ‘mass casual leave’ within its ambit. Concerted casual leave on a given day by 50% or more workers will be treated as strike.

IR code and OSH Code, however, give both the Centre and the states power to exempt any establishment from “all or any of the provisions” of the codes “in the public interest.” Already, nine states namely Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Haryana, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat have raised the limit for units with right to resort to closure and lay-offs through state laws; the IR Code protect such amendments.

Introducing the three Bills in Lok Sabha on Saturday, labour minister Santosh Gangwar said: “These codes will also bring the industrial peace and harmony in the country which will immensely help the country in bringing much needed economic growth and will help in employment generation. They will also help promote investment and will create harmonious industrial relations in the country”.

“We need to universalise social security. Schemes will be framed for unorganised workers, gig workers and platform workers and the members of their families for providing benefits relating to ESIC. Establishments will be allowed to join under the Employees’ Provident Fund Organization (EPFO) and Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) on voluntary basis even if they have less than the mandatory employee threshold of 10 and 20 respectively,” he said on Tuesday.

Source : PTI