India's largest trade union and RSS affiliate Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) has stated the new Industrial Relations Code, 2019 presented in Parliament will create a battle ground as many provisions are against the interest of workers. It wanted the government to withdraw such provisions and send the Bill to a Parliamentary Standing Committee to redraft it. "The large exemption regime proposed will create jungle Raj where parties will be compelled to settle their disputes with muscle power. Lack of expertise and vision is explicit in such an exercise of redrafting India's labour laws", BMS general secretary Virjesh Upadhyay said.
BMS wanted the government to find ways to address industrial failures as they feared otherwise "the burden is being conveniently shifted to the shoulders of workers in the name of labour reforms". The meeting of BMS office bearers has been scheduled in Haridwar from 11 December.
The 12 Negatives
- The provisions prohibiting strikes will make industrial sector a conflict zone destroying industrial peace. It will create friction at floor level. The provision is titled in the code as "prohibition of strike". Giving notice of strike before 14 days and within 2 months is clearly a restraint on strike. Also penalty for "illegal" strike are to be deleted.
- "Fixed term employment" is a new definition which was not in the last draft. Casualisation and contractualisation is going to create an explosive situation in the future. It will lead to below quality productive activities and create an India of "casualised" labour.
- Government has no business interfering with internal matters of Trade Unions like fixing rate of subscriptions payable by members, prohibition on person holding an office of profit as office bearer, restraining outsiders as office bearers, protecting members of trade unions who do not participate in strike thereby creating split and weaken trade union etc.
- Many provisions in the act that gives power to the government to exempt provisions of the bill have to be deleted. Purpose of Labour Laws is for Industrial peace and to avoid Jungle Raj.
- In the new chapter IX and X on permission for retrenchment, closure and lay off has been reduced/retained at 50-100. Earlier companies with 100 workers can now run with 20-30 workers due to mechanisation. Hence existing threshold limit of 100 is on higher side. The deemed granting of permission after 60 days in Ch. X is an anti-worker provision.
- If each unit in industrial establishment or undertaking is considered as a separate unit, it is easy for the employer to split up into smaller units and get out of the threshold limit to circumvent the coverage of various provisions of the labour laws.
- Definition of "wages" exclude a long list of allowances etc. which will assist unscrupulous employers to avoid payment to ESI and EPF etc. which is against Supreme Court decision in Group Four case.
- Definition of "worker" expressly excludes apprentice.
- Oral evidence in disputes about standing orders not made admissible.
- Govt. is given arbitrary power to nullify the awards of Tribunals passed after a long trial.
- The time limit prescribed for the worker to apply for the execution of recovery of money as "within one year" is also an anti worker provision whereas the general civil law says 12 years. This is to support unscrupulous employers.
- Different dates for implementing different provisions, exclusion clauses, Govt's power to give exemption, complicated definitions, threshold limit for coverage of certain chapters etc. are age old methods which are against the spirit of Codification and simplification.
The 12 Positives
The labour union welcomed some provisions too.
- One chapter on Bipartite Forums like works committee and grievance redressal committee at floor level is welcome.
- Failure report of the conciliation officer is being sent to the parties directly and not merely to the Govt.
- Tribunals will communicate award directly to the parties. It has rightly avoided the existing practice of publication of reports and awards in official gazette which is a relic of the old British practice which has no relevance today.
- Twin system of Labour Court and Industrial Tribunal are removed and merged in one system, i.e. Industrial Tribunal.
- Specific inclusion of working journalists and sales promotion employees under the Code.
- Sc.67 says badli can be retained for only 1 year. There is continuation of the item (10) in unfair labour practice on the part of employer "to employ workers as 'badlis', casuals or temporaries and to continue them as such for years, with the object of depriving them of the status and privileges of permanent workers."
- Election of office bearers of the Trade Union once in two years will remove bogus unions and which do not function in a democratic way.
- New provision on recognition of Central Trade Unions at Central and State level will fill up the existing lacuna in that area.
- Execution of award and decree to be done like Civil Court is welcome as worker has the choice to go for nearest Court for easy execution.
- Tribunal's power to give interim relief to worker is a great relief to workers.
- Parities given power to directly approach Tribunal on failure of conciliation is a welcome provision instead of the long process of "reference" through the Govt.
- Conciliation officer given the power to enforce attendance of any person and compelling production of documents etc.
Also Read: Uddhav Thackeray may junk Devendra Fadnavis' bullet train, expressway, hyperloop projects
Also Read: Airtel, Reliance Jio, Vodafone Idea tariffs: Who has increased how much?
Also Read: Indian economy to grow 6.5% in FY21; private investment to bounce back: OECD