Plan panel report on labour lacks vision on law reforms

New Delhi, March 30 | Updated: Mar 31 2005, 05:30am hrs
After the showdown with the Left parties over appointment of foreign experts in its consultative committees, the Planning Commission is unwilling to rub them on the wrong side yet again. Recognising the Lefts sensitivity to labour issues, the Tenth Plan mid-term appraisal (MTA) on labour has not made any suggestion related to desired changes in labour laws. Instead, it has just listed the problems the industry is facing due to the existing laws.

Speaking to FE, senior officials in the Planning Commission said that the MTA report on labour did not have a single suggestion on amending the existing labour legislations. Since the Left parties are quite sensitive to labour issues and the national common minimum programme (NCMP), too, lays down strict guidelines for changing labour laws, we decided to play it safe and not give suggestions, an official said.

The MTA, though, does list the problems faced by the industry due to the existing labour laws. It has been pointed out in the report that sectors like textile, where there is spurt in demand in certain months, cannot hire additional labour as the law does not permit to remove the additional in the lean months.

Interestingly, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) rejected the idea of automatic hire and fire in the NCMP. While the NCMP recognises that some changes in labour laws may be required, it categorically states that such changes must fully protect the intersts of workers and their families.

While officials pointed out that the MTA has said that the recommendations of the second national commission on labour could be considered by the government, Left parties have already criticised the report on the grounds that there were not enough consultations on the issues. Some of the recommendations of the labour commission include freedom to hire and fire to all establishments employing up to 300 workers, varying rates of compensation to workers and equating lock-outs with strikes.