In an unprecedented move, labour unions affiliated to CPM and RSS have joined hands in Maharashtra for a cause. They have united to oppose the Labour Department’s move to ease norms for closure of factories in the country’s most industrialised state. CPI(M), Congress, RSS and Shiv Sena labour unions have asked the state government to make it mandatory for factories with even 50 employees to seek official permission before closure.
At present, according to the Industrial Disputes Act, any unit that employs 100 or more people has to seek government permission before it can shut down. It has been learnt that Maharashtra’s Labour Department proposed to increase that number to 300 — implying that factories with 299 or fewer staff can close down without government permission. According to the proposal, factories with 300 employees or more may be permitted to close if employers pay staffers, who are being retrenched, 60 days’ average pay for every completed year of continuous service. Besides, it has also proposed to add a new section in the Act to raise disputes related to retrenchment or dismissal.
The state government proposed these reforms based on a model law circulated by the Union government and considering amendments made by the Rajasthan government. While the state government planned to introduce the bill on labour reforms in the winter session of the Assembly, the move was deferred owing to opposition from labour unions.
Anil Dhumane, general secretary of RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), said: “We completely oppose the government’s move to allow factories with up to 300 employees to shut down without seeking permission. Companies should not be allowed to invest, make money and then go away without caring for labourers. It should be brought down to 50.”
Two days ago, at the state-level conference in Nashik, a resolution was passed demanding that the state government reduce the number of employees from 100 to 50, making factories with lower staff strength also liable to seek permission before closure.
Apart from BMS, other labour unions that supported the resolution included Trade Union Joint Action Committee, CPI(M)-linked Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), Congress-linked Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), Shiv Sena-linked Bharatiya Kamgar Sena, Hind Majdur Sabha and other organisations.
“With use of advanced technologies, the number of employees required in any factory has reduced. At the time when the law fixed the number of employees at 100, there wasn’t so much automation. So there is now a need to change the law keeping in mind labour welfare, and hence it should be reduced to 50 employees,” said Dr DL Karad of the CITU.
Suryakant Mahadik, president of Bharatiya Kamgar Sena, said this was the first time that all labour unions have come together. “We have kept our ideologies aside for the cause of labour welfare,” said Mahadik.