Labour Laws and the Recent Changes Amid Lockdown
To incentivize the economic activity, an increasing number of states, prominent of them are Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, besides Rajasthan, Punjab, Odisha and Punjab have sought changes in the existing labour laws in their state. Uttar Pradesh Government has already cleared an ordinance in the State Legislative Assembly in this regard. The most significant changes were announced by three states including Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. It is believed that to cope with the pressure of reviving the economy many other states are likely to follow the footsteps of these states. As the labour law changes are concerned with the basic working rights including working conditions, working days, and many more, these are important to be discussed.
In this article, we will discuss labour laws and the recent changes suggested or adopted by the states.
Among many other states, the recent labour law changes brought in three states that are prominently in the discussion, as others are likely to follow them in due course of time. These are:
a. Uttar Pradesh
- The U.P. Government has exempted employers from the purview of most of the labour laws for three years.
- According to the draft ordinance, which is pending approval from the president, provisions related to minimum wages, timely payment of wages, and safety provisions under the Factories Act, 1948 and Building (and Other Construction Workers) Act, 1996 will continue to apply to all firms.
b. Madhya Pradesh
- Madhya Pradesh exempted the employers from the Contract Labour Act for 1000 days, Madhya Pradesh industrial Relations Act, and Industrial Disputes Act.
- The State has also granted exemptions to the employers for flexibility of extension of working hours.
- The Madhya Pradesh Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1961 has also undergone some labor law changes that will exempt industries employing up to 100 workers from the law’s provisions.
- The Gujarat Government has brought in the suspension of most of the labour laws in the state whereby the industries will have to abide by the Minimum Wages Act, the Industrial Safety Rules and the Employees' Compensation Act.
- Gujarat decided to exempt new industrial units from all related acts and norms for 1200 days.
Labour Laws in India
The Labour Laws of India originated and express the socio-political views of leaders from pre-1947 independence movement struggle. The laws related to labour and employment in India are broadly put under “Industrial Law”. The industrial laws have developed in India post-Independence are the result of the awakening of the workers of their rights. The industrial relations involve a delicate balance between the workers, employers and conditions of labour or the workers.
What are the labour laws in India?
‘Labour laws’ is a conglomeration of laws that administers the rulings and precedents addressing the relationship between ‘Employers, Employees and Labour Organisations, which deal with labour issues.
‘Labour Laws’ is a cluster of different Acts, Rules and Regulations enacted by the Parliament of India and different State Legislatures. In India, labour laws cover almost all types of industries, several labour laws regulate service conditions in specific industries such as building and construction work, pharmaceuticals, dockyards and mines. Various compliances in accordance with the procedures laid down therein are also dealt with by labour laws.
Therefore, labour laws in India not only deal with industrial relations i.e. relations between the employees and employees but also relate to the payment of wages, working conditions, social security etc.
In the current Indian economic environment, which is marked by the globalized economy, liberalization in trade, enhanced competition and ongoing technological advancement, rationalization of manpower is one of the most effective keys to the efficiency of any organization. Rationalization of manpower does not merely mean reductional retrenchment of employers.
Contribution of labour in an Economy
Labour is regarded as the primary factor of production, no labour means difficult to produce. The size of a country’s labour force is determined by the size of the adult population. Also, the extent to which the adults are either working or are prepared to offer their labour for wages.
Purpose of labour legislation
Labour laws are designed to protect the rights of individual workers and employers and to promote productive, safe workplaces. Before the advent of labour legislation, workplaces were regulated only by the ethics of the ownership and the bargaining power of the employee. Basically, the labour law defines the rights and obligations as workers, union members, and employers in the workplace.
Labour law covers the following aspects:
- Ensures that just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief are provided.
- Ensures productive economy by establishing a legal system that facilitates productive individual and collective employment relationships.
- A framework within which employers, workers and their representatives can interact with regard to work‐related issues is provided by the labour laws.
- It serves as an important vehicle for achieving harmonious industrial relations based on workplace democracy
- Secures the citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength
- A constant reminder and guarantee of fundamental principles and rights at work are provided by labour laws, which have received broad social acceptance and establishes to processes through which these principles and rights can be implemented and enforced.
- Lastly, the labour laws also secure the participation of the employee in the management of undertakings, establishments, or other organisations engaged in any industry.
International reaction to the proposed labour law changes
The International Labour Organization (ILO) came into the existence in 1919, is a specialized agency of the United Nations. As India is one of the founding members of the ILO and the Parliament of India has ratified 47 conventions of the ILO.
- Some of the conventions related to working hours, labor inspections, equal remuneration, and compensation in case of injuries, among others.
- India has adopted the ILO’s declaration on the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work in
- These declarations are binding to the member countries.
- ILO members have to “respect and promote” the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining, elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation, the abolition of child labour, the elimination of forced or compulsory labour.
The ILO has responded to the sweeping labour law changes proposed by state governments and has asked the authorities to ensure that all such relaxations adhere to global standards and are effected after proper consultation. It also said that labour laws protect the well-being of both employers and workers, and called for “collective efforts and solidarity between the government, employers and workers”. Labour laws are an important means to advance social justice and promote decent work for all.
As suggested by the International Labour Organisation and also the need of the hour is to strengthen the social dialogue, collective bargaining, labour relation institutions and process for implementing solutions. The workers need to be taken into confidence amid the social chaos occurred due to COVID-19 spread. As advised by the ILO that any policy response should ensure recovery through fiscal and monetary stimulus measures. The support to enterprises, jobs and income through social protection, retention and financial relief to companies along with ensuring that workers’ needs be protected by strengthening occupational safety and health measures.
Presently, the latest amendments in labour laws in India 2020 have been passed an ordinance and are still awaiting the president's assent to become an Act. The new labour law changes and suggestion will improve the country's standing in ILO and is an effective step towards implementing Fundamental Principles and Rights at work.
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