Immediately after assuming office, the present dispensation took up the long-pending labour reform initiative proposing to amalgamate 44 existing labour Acts into four codes with the aim of simplifying them and ensuring a conducive and harmonious environment for doing business. But the fate of the codes is still unclear even as two have already been sent for the Cabinet approval and the other two are in the final stages of drafting.
Sources said work on drafting the two codes – social security & welfare and safety & working conditions – are going on in the labour ministry on an urgent basis, possibly to get them passed in Parliament along with Codes on Wages and Code on Industrial Relations (though not in the Budget session).
The Code on Wages, through which the government intends to bring all employees under a minimum wage and vest the power to fix it exclusively with the states, has been gathering dust in the Cabinet secretariat for more than a year now. The Code on industrial relations that deals with vexed issues like barring outsiders from being office bearers of trade union in the organised sector – have also been sent for its nod for more than three months now. Labour ministry sources do not know when these two would be taken up for consideration.
A section in the ministry is also not ruling out the possibility of amalgamating existing Acts into one unified code. “We have been asked to prepare the codes by the Law Commission. If they ask us to prepare just one code we will be doing that but in that case, there will be further rationalisation. We are open to the idea as well,” said a labour ministry official.
Talks were there to do away with codification and centering the reform proposals under the broad contours of the Factories Act; but that seems unlikely since work is going on an urgent basis on the codes.