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UP, MP to Dilute Labour Laws for Next 3 Years to Woo Industries

Trade unions and workers’ organisations have earlier alleged that the governments are taking “taking advantage of the lockdown, to surreptitiously go ahead with its anti-worker agenda.”
UP, MP to Dilute Labour Laws for Next 3 Years to Woo Industries

Image Courtesy: Business Standard

In an attempt to attract investments in the state, Uttar Pradesh government has decided to dilute certain labour laws in the state for the period of next three years. To effect this, an ordinance has been approved by the state Cabinet in a meeting on Wednesday.

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has severely affected the industrial and economic activities in the state, said the official press release. Temporary easing of the rules and regulations surrounding labour will ensure the industrial establishments in the state – affected by the virus-induced lockdown – “return on track”, it added.

Interestingly, the state government also cites interests of workers being “severely affected” in the absence of economic activities, as one of the reasons to bring exemptions to the labour laws for next three years to kickstart the industries in the state.

Though the statement doesn’t doesn’t specify what will be the exact exemptions that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led state government is allowing, it states that the provisions relating to Abolition of Bonded Labour Act, Employee’s Compensation Act and that of the Building and Other Construction Workers Act will remain in place.

Meanwhile, the recently formed BJP government of Madhya Pradesh also on Wednesday proposed a slew of changes to the labour laws, including doing away with the inspection through official inspectors and with the need to maintain official records for the purpose of inspection, Business Standard reported.

With similar motives as that of the UP government – to boost investments in the state – Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan proposed amendments to the Factories Act, Madhya Pradesh Industrial Relations Act and Industrial Disputes Act.

According to the official press release, “the need to give various concessions to industries in the next 1,000 days [is due to] the situation arising out of the corona crisis”.

The proposed amendments in the labour laws, among other things, will exempt companies setting up factories in the state in the next 1,000 days from the obligations arising out of provisions relating to occupational health, safety and working conditions of employees.

According to Business Standard, new units set up in Madhya Pradesh will be exempted from the necessary provisions of cleanliness, disposal of waste, ventilation, lighting, drinking water, urinals, canteens, restrooms, crèches, working hours, wages during the leave period, and the need for the manager of the factory to send notice to authorities in case any worker contracts occupational diseases.

Such proposed changes to the labour laws in the backdrop of the coronavirus outbreak in the country is not the first attempt of the state governments. Earlier, amendments were made by at least five governments, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh, to the Factories Act to allow companies to extend the daily shift of the workers from existing norms of eight hours to a maximum of 12 hours per day, for a period of three months.

In addition, with the parliamentary committee submitting its report on the two labour code bills – Occupational, Safety, Health and Working Condition Code Bill and Industrial Relations Code Bill – which are pending for parliament nod, stage has been set for the Centre to bring in labour reforms – subsuming 44 labour laws into four codes.

The dilution of the labour laws have drawn much flak from trade unions and worker’s organisations, who have called it an attempt to “turn workers into slaves”, and have alleged that the governments are “taking advantage of the lockdown, to surreptitiously go ahead with its anti-worker agenda”.

Also read: COVID-19: How the Pandemic Was Used to Grab All Power

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