Rajya Sabha passes bill to simplify certain labour laws

Amid strong opposition from the Left parties, Rajya Sabha today passed a bill that aims to simplify labour law…

Amid strong opposition from the Left parties, Rajya Sabha today passed a bill that aims to simplify labour law procedures and also exempt filing of returns and maintainance of records to establishments employing upto 40 workers.

The Labour Law Amendment Bill 2011 aims to benefit establishments employing upto 40 workers in maintaining registers and submitting returns electronically under 16 labour laws instead of nine laws.

The bill was passed in the Upper House through a division vote with 49 members casting in favour of amendments, while 19 of them against them. The bill was passed amid a walk out by CPI, CPI (M) and JD(U) members.

Replying to clarifications sought by members, Labour Minister Bandaru Datta said, “There is some kind of misinformation about the bill…. The amendments are only for simplification of procedures. It is nothing anti-labour.”

After labour laws are simplified, the government would be taking further action in the interest of workers. “Our policy is pro-people. Our government is committed to labour reforms,” he said.

Opposing the bill, Left members including D Raja and Tapan Kumar insisted that the government not expand the definition of ‘small establishments’ as those which employ upto 40 workers for being eligible for exemption of filing of returns and maintainance of registers. Instead, they sought upper limit of workers to be kept at 14 in an establishment.

Currently, the labour law has limited application for providing exemption of filing returns and record keeping to establishments employing upto 19 workers.

The amendment bill aims to prescribe user-friendly forms and provide for maintainance of registers or records of establishments in computer, floppy or other electronic media and submit the returns via e-mail.

Participating in the discussion, D Raja (CPI) said, “I am dissatified with the bill. …This legislation is letting down the interest of labour. What was the need to increase number of workers from 19 to 40 in an establishment? I think this is done for individual and corporates. You should reduce from 19 to 10-14 workers. You are making it 40, why? If you want to serve corporates, you make it clear.”

He said that the government cannot undermine the role of trade unions. “So on December 5, all trade unions have given a call to oppose the labour reforms. I oppose this. I want the government to reconsider,” he said.

Opposing the legislation, Tapan Kumar Sen (CPI-M) said trade unions had strongly voiced their objections and the bill was never a “production of consensus” as it being claimed by the Labour Minister.

“This Bill will throw the workers at the mercy of employers as all the penalty clauses are removed from the bill,” he said.

The left MP said that measures to amend the Act would dilute it further from inspections for ensuring the welfare of employees.

“The good days have come, but for whom?” Sen asked.

K C Tyagi JD(U) also opposed the bill, saying in the name of labour reforms, the bill will bring further miseries to the working class.

“For eight hours work, the employees would be paid only for six hours… Factories can shut their shops with the mere consent of the Labour Commissioner. If that happens what would be the plight of the employees and their social security schemes such as Provident Fund?” he said.

Earlier initiating the dicussion on the Bill, Congress leader Madhusudan Mistry expressed concerns over the implications of the amendments on workers especially on casual labour.

He criticised the proposed legislation saying it went against the interests of labour and that workers will have difficulty in accessing the records.

Vishambhar Prasad Nishad (SP) opposed the bill saying it will only favour the contractors and businessmen and there was no welfare measures.

“The government is anti-labour. This government is following the foot steps of the previous government, which drafted this bill in 2011,” he said.

Satish Chandra Misra (BSP) stressed the need for protecting the labour and ensuring that workers are not subjected to any harassment.

Baswaraj Patil (BJP) said the proposed legislation is in the interest of all employees and welcomed it. D Bandopadhyay of the TMC strongly opposed it calling it an anti-labour law which is draconian in nature.

He compared the Bill to an iceberg, only one tenth of which is visible from the surface, but which is in reality dangerous.

Anil Desai (SS) said, “In Maharashtra, the labour condition is pathetic though I rise to support the bill.” He raised the concerns of migrant workers.

Bhupinder Singh (BJD), Muthukaruppan (AIADMK), Tiruchi Siva (DMK), Satyanarayan Jaiya (BJP) and Anand Bhaskar (Cong) also spoke.

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