What are Indian labour laws? What has been the exemptions in the labour laws granted by some states to the industries? What are the reasons for the same?
There are over 200 state laws and close to 50 central laws on labour. Hence there is no set definition of “labour laws” in the country.
Labour laws, for example, the Factories Act is to ensure safety measures on factory premises, and promote health and welfare of workers.
The Shops and Commercial Establishments Act, on the other hand, aims to regulate hours of work, payment, overtime, weekly day off with pay, other holidays with pay, annual leave, employment of children and young persons, and employment of women.
The Minimum Wages Act covers more workers than any other labour legislation.
The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 as it relates to terms of service such as layoff, retrenchment, and closure of industrial enterprises and strikes and lockouts.
The revival of business and economic activity after weeks of forced closure is indeed a key objective to be achieved.
For the same, some states are trying to achieve this by granting sweeping exemptions to Industries from legal provisions aimed at protecting labourers and employees in factories, industries and other establishments.
Madhya Pradesh has embarked on a plan to give a boost to business and industry by allowing units to be operated without many of the requirements of the Factories Act such as working hours may extend to 12 hours, instead of 8, and weekly duty up to 72 hours.
the State has used Section 5 of the Act, which permits exemption from its provisions for three months, in the hope that the Centre would approve such suspension for at least a thousand days (3 years).
However, this exemption can be given only during a ‘public emergency’, defined in a limited way as a threat to security due to war or external aggression.
Uttar Pradesh has approved an ordinance suspending all labour laws for three years , except a few ones relating to the abolition of child and bonded labour, women employees, construction workers and payment of wages, besides compensation to workmen for accidents while on duty.
Reports suggest that several States are following their example in the name of boosting economic activity.
Governments are planning to relieve factories of even elementary duties such as providing drinking water, first aid boxes and protective equipments and also suspend requirements such as cleanliness, ventilation, lighting, canteens, restrooms and crèches.
These changes in labour laws which operate in a State may require the Centre’s assent.
The Centre, which is pursuing a labour reform agenda through consolidated codes for wages, industrial relations and occupational safety, health and working conditions, would not readily agree to wholesale exemptions from legal safeguards and protections the law now affords to workers.