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New Labour Codes From July 1? Trade Unions Will Continue to Oppose Changes

Trade unions fear that the four Labour Codes will dilute workers’ rights, but union leaders also note that many deadlines for the implementation of the codes have been missed by the Centre in the past.
New Labour Codes From July 1? Trade Unions Will Continue to Oppose Changes

New Delhi: India’s Central Trade Unions (CTUs) say they will continue opposing the codification of labour legislations, fearing it will dilute the “hard-won” rights of the workers, even as media reports speculate the implementation of the four Labour Codes from next month. 

That the central government plans to implement the new labour laws from July 1 has been the story carried by major publications in the past few days. Trade unions, on the other hand, highlight that deadlines have been missed in the past, owing to multiple challenges. 

Touted as “reforms” by the Narendra Modi-led central government, the three Labour Codes – Industrial Relations Code, Code on Social Security, and Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code – were passed in the Parliament in September 2020 without a proper debate. The other one, Code on Wages, was passed in 2019.  

Together, they are set to replace and subsume 29 Central labour enactments.

Since labour falls under the concurrent list of the Constitution, it is required for both the central and the state governments to form rules for the implementation of a central legislation. As per information released by the Union Labour Ministry in March this year, 27, 23, 21 and 18 States/Union Territories have pre-published the draft rules under the Wage Code, Social Security Code, Industrial Relations Code, and the Occupational Safety Code, respectively.

All the reports pertaining to the implementation of Labour Codes by July are nothing but “speculations”, Sukumar Damle of AITUC told NewsClick on Monday. “There is nothing official as yet,” he added.

Damle highlighted that such reports have surfaced in media in the past as well. According to him, since 2020, many deadlines set by the Centre itself have been missed. 

“The trade unions have opposed the Labour Codes from the very start. We will continue to do so even if they are implemented,” he said, adding this is the stand of all the 10 CTUs that have jointly staged multiple demonstrations and general strikes over the Labour Codes in the recent past.

Tapan Sen, general secretary, Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) on Monday said that the possibility of rolling out Labour Codes cannot be completely ruled out. "After all, the government is hell bent on implementing them. On the other hand, our (CTUs’) position is very clear: scrap the anti-worker Labour Codes."

Sen added that a " direct confrontation" will begin between the Centre and the CTUs once the Codes are rolled out. "We will discuss what to do then. Right now, there are only speculations,” he said.

After missing at least four deadlines – December 2020, April 2021, July-August 2021, and October 2021 – to implement the four Labour Codes in one go, the Labour Ministry was considering in January this year to introduce the Codes in a staggered way, starting with at least two of them in the current fiscal. 

Political observers in the past have underscored that the delay due to the emboldening of the trade union movement after the “huge victory” of the farmers’ agitation that ensured the repeal of the central farm legislations earlier last year. The aim of the central government was also to avert a potential cascading effect during Assembly elections last year, according to them.

This was due to the fact that the four Labour Codes “dilute the hard-won rights” of the workers, as has been argued by trade unions for many years now, said Damle. 

While, the Code on Social Security fails to emphasise social security as a right while not stipulating a clear date for enforcement of schemes, according to some organisations, experts argue that all is also not okay with the provisions under the Code on Wages as well.

Further, the Code on Industrial Relations, which deals with industrial disputes, trade unions, and safeguards against retrenchments and lay-offs, proposes to do away with the requirement of framing standing orders for the workforce in companies that employ up to 300 workers. This legally binding document, constituting terms and conditions of a service, currently applies to establishments having 100 or more workmen.

Likewise, the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, dealing with matters relating to the workplace and workers’ safety and welfare, allows states to grant exemptions to new factories from any provisions of the Code “in the public interest that is necessary to create more economic activities and employment opportunities”; it is subject only to conditions that the respective governments “think fit”.

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