By Dr. Gyan Pathak
Implementation process of the Modi government’s four labour codes has reached an advanced stage with 23 states have already notified the rules, and the centre is preparing to notify its rules soon, after which these will be implemented across the country.
Despite stiff opposition and demand for repeal of the four labour codes by the joint front of the 10 central trade unions, the Union Minister of Labour and Employment Bhupender Yadav has virtually rejected the demand for repeal of the codes in Rajya Sabha on Thursday, December 9 while responding to a question from the leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Mallikarjun Karge regarding the demand of workers’ organizations for repeal of these laws, by telling the house that states are already in the process of implementing the labour laws and 23 states have already notified the rules. The Congress ruled states have also notified them and the central rules too would be notified soon he said.
Mallikarjun Kharge has suggested to the Centre to reconsider the new labour laws and withdraw them. He had raised the issue during Question Hour and said that all trade unions are of the view that the codes were not in favour of the labour force from the point of view of social security, employment, and assured wages. “Will you reconsider the labour laws and withdraw them?,” he had asked.
There are four major grounds of opposition of the four labour codes. The Codes on wages, 2019 is being opposed on the ground that it merely provides a threshold floor-level wage; the Code on Industrial relations is being opposed because it allows firms engaging up to 300 employees to retrench workers without seeking state government’s approval; the Code on Occupational Safety is opposed because it exempts from its ambit labour contractors engaging up to 50 workers; and the Code on social security is being opposed because it does not clarify the Centre’s financial obligations. There are numerous others allegations including these being anti-worker and pro-business and industries which can trigger the process of modern day slavery in the country.
On the other hand Modi government has been claiming that these code are the biggest reforms in independent India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that these were long due and much awaited labour reforms which will ensure well-being of our industrious workers and give a boost to economic growth. These reforms will contribute to a better working environment, will ensure “Ease of Doing Business” and will empower the enterprises by reducing compliance, red-tapism and “Inspector Raj”.
The sources in the Union Ministry of Labour have said that almost all the States and Union Territories in the country have already drafted their rules and finalizing for their notification. The centre would complete the process at the “appropriate time”.
The central trade unions have said that they will be intensifying their protest to demand the repeal of the labour codes. AITUC general secretary Amarjeet Kaur had recently said that the Centre had failed to get the support of States on implementation of the labour codes, and attributed the delay is implementing them on political consideration for the upcoming state assembly polls.
The RSS and BJP supported Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) general secretary Binoy Kumar Sinha had also recently said that the government did not have the “intention” and “political will” to implement the codes right now. He had said that their demand remained as it is since they accepted only the two labour codes – the Code on Wages and the Code on Social Security – which can be implemented immediately; and the two other labour codes – the Code on Industrial Relations and the Code on Occupational Safety – be reviewed.
It should also be noted that the rules for the Code on Wages have been finalized long back just after it was passed in the Parliament of India in 2019. However, the Centre have been holding it because it is learned that they wanted to implement all the four codes at one go. The other three codes were passed by the Parliament of India over a year ago in 2020.
These codes have however getting support from non-BJP ruled states also such as Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand a Punjab etc that have already finalized draft notification for rules for all codes. The progress is in very advance stage in almost all the states, and the centre is also preparing their drafts and may be implemented anytime after the assembly election of the fives states will be over early next year, though the Centre has not been focusing on any specific deadline for implementation.
In this backdrop it seems that the joint platform of the 10 central trade unions are left with no option but to intensify their agitation against the four labour codes with demand of their repeal, for which they are preparing across the country. They are preparing for two-day general strike in the country during the budget session in February 2021. Their protests would most likely hit the streets of the country and the country will soon see strained industrial relations and non-conducive working environment as against the claim of the Prime Minister that the reform would “contribute to a better working environment”. (IPA Service)