Representational Image. Image Courtesy: The Hindu
In the backdrop of scarcity of labour in the state amid the nationwide lockdown, the Maharashtra government has allowed employer companies to increase working hours of the workers from eight to 12 per day till June 30. The labour unions are perceiving this as an attempt at “undermining the workers’ rights”.
However, the companies will have to pay double to the workers for this extra work; the weekly work hours can not exceed 60, and a shift longer than 13 hours at a stretch can not be assigned to the workers, said the government. These guidelines were reportedly brought in after the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Maratha Chambers of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture submitted a memorandum to the state government reporting reduced labour force.
Maharashtra government has also asked the industries to take all precautionary measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus, to provide sanitisers and masks, etc. and to keep safe distance between two workers as per health guidelines.
However, Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) Maharashtra secretary Vivek Montero said, “It was absolutely unnecessary. Labour laws have a history. They have helped workers as well as industries grow. These changes undermine the rights of labours. This has been done without consultation with labourers and it is atrocious. This view that labour law is a hurdle for the growth of industry is fundamentally wrong and we have serious objections to that.”
Sarva Shramik Sanghatna, too, has slammed the state government for allowing these changes. "There is a clause of double payment to workers for those extra four hours. Do you think companies will respect it? No. Central and state government appealed to industries to not cut salaries of employees. Has that happened? Workers will work for extra hours, but there is no surety about whether they will get benefits from it. State government has made this decision without even consultation with labour unions. This is a violation of law in itself," said chairman Uday Bhat.
Bala Hivrale of Thane's Kopri MIDC Worker’ Union told NewsClick: "Ideally, the state should have left these things to unions and industries locally. It could have been done with mutual understanding. Now with this order, the state government has exposed the workers to further exploitation," said Hivrale.
Vishwas Utagi, coordinator of Workers’ Unions Front, appealed to the state government to reconsider the decision. "This will be wrong on so many levels. This situation is unprecedented, but we all are seeing how the poor and labourers are suffering. It was the duty of the state government to protect their rights in such times. Instead of that, it acted on the memorandum from the industry," said Utagi.