Under pressure from trade unions including the RSS-affiliated BMS, the government may water down some of the important reform proposals in the draft code on industrial relations (IR). One of the proposals was to allow units employing up to 300 people to retrench or lay off workers and/or close down without government approval, while units with staff up to 100 can do so at present.
At a tripartite meeting held here on Wednesday, central trade unions including BMS insisted that even companies having less than 100 workers should get government permission before shutting down. It termed the labour law reforms proposed in the IR Code mostly “anti-labour” and said they will destroy industrial peace.
“We are listening to all and we are open to everything,” labour and employment minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar told FE when asked whether the ministry would prepare the fifth draft of IR Code incorporating suggestions of the trade unions. “We will deliberate on their apprehensions and suggestions in a group of minister’s meeting and then take a call,” Gangwar, who took charge at the labour ministry last month, said.
Immediately after assuming office, the Narendra Modi government took up the long-pending labour reform initiative, tipped to be the biggest ever since Independence, with the objective of making India a global manufacturing hub and ensuring the ease of doing business.
While the aim is to amalgamate 44 extant Acts into 4 codes, only the code on wages has made it to Parliament. The drafting of two other codes — social security & welfare and safety & working conditions — is in progress. IR Code is at the centre of the proposed labour reform initiative.
Among the major proposals in the IR code are introducing fixed-term employment — which was made applicable in the textile and garment industries last year; making trade unions with negotiating powers more representative; barring outsiders from being office-bearers of unions in the organised sector and reducing such persons’ role in union activities in the unorganised sector.
Also, an industrial strike would be defined afresh by including concerted casual leave by 50% of more workers, while the provision for prior notice of strike would be extended to “all activities similar to existing public utility services”.
Many feel that the extension of fixed-term employment to all sectors would help generate fresh jobs and thus, could be a win-win for both the workers and employers. However, trade unions are opposed to this, calling it a backdoor entry for the hire-and-fire policy.