All the trade unions under the banner of Joint Committee of Trade Unions (JCTU) organised a protest on Monday in front of the Kousalya Bhavan, Labour Commissioner Office in Bangalore against the proposed decision to exempt implementation of labour laws in Karnataka. The BJP-led government in the state plans to ease the existing labour laws to help the employers in the name of helping them get rid of the losses in the wake of Covid-19.
Earlier, in a release, JCTU said: “Under the pretext of the COVID-19 lockdown, employers’ bodies are lobbying with the State government to increase working hours to 12 hours a day.” The release also pointed out that amendments were being proposed to permit industries to announce layoffs, terminations and closures without prior permission and exemption of contract labour registration. On May 18, the trade unions plan to hold a statewide protest.
The JCTU noted that eight-hour working days and right to stable employment were hard-won rights of the workers.
According to reports, BS Yediyurappa-led BJP government in the state, like its counterparts in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat is all set to relax some key labour laws which give protection to the interests of workers in the state, including the laws which govern termination, retrenchment and closure, even as it is consulting stakeholders.
Changes will be made to the implementation of Factories Act, Industrial Disputes Act, Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, and Minimum Wages Act. Sources aware of the developments told The Hindu that many of the changes to these laws were in line with those brought in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat.
A source in the Labour Department was quoted as saying, “We are discussing with both industry bodies and trade unions on the proposed changes.”
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On Saturday, though the scheduled meeting with labour unions was deferred, the department proceeded with its meeting with industry leaders and even sought their inputs.
“The government is looking at extending working hours to a daily 12-hour shift and a 72-hour shift per week.”
On Friday, in a letter to the CM Yediyurappa and Industries Minister Jagadish Shettar, FKCCI, an industry body, had sought deferment of existing labour laws for three years to attract new investments in the state. It was also being pointed out that Karnataka may lose opportunities if it does not follow suit especially when other states have already deferred labour laws.
Meanwhile, the joint platform of Central Trade Unions and Federations/Associations on Monday vehemently denounced the blanket exemptions given to all establishments from the employers’ obligation under all substantive labour laws for a period of three years by the state governments of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
In UP, the Ordinance has already been brought out and the same is being done in Madhya Pradesh. There are reports on similar moves in Gujarat also for a period of 1200 days.
“As the mass of the working people have been subjected to inhuman sufferings owing to loss of jobs, loss of wages, eviction from residences etc reducing them to hungry non-entities in the process of 45 days lockdown, the Govt of the day at the centre has pounced upon those working people only with fangs and claws to reduce them to the stature of virtual slaves. In desperation the migrant workers have been walking for several hundreds of miles on roads, on railway tracks, through fields and jungles to reach their homes with several precious lives lost on the way due to hunger, exhaustion and accidents. Now the Government at the centre has taken the strategy of letting loose their pliant state governments to take such anti-worker and anti-people autocratic measures, many other state governments are expected to follow suit,” the JCTU statement said.
Earlier, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister had announced the decision to exempt the employers from their substantive obligations under various labour laws like Factories Act, Madhya Pradesh Industrial Relations Act and Industrial Disputes Act, Contract Labour Act etc through appropriate amendments by Ordinance for a period of 1000 days. The employers were also exempted from payment of Rs 80 per labourer to Madhya Pradesh Labour Welfare Board. The Uttar Pradesh Government, however, has issued an Ordinance exempting all establishments in the state from all 38 labour laws, barring four, for a period of three years.
The statement issued by central trade unions including INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, LPF and UTUC further said: “Central Trade Unions consider these moves as an inhuman crime and brutality on the working people, besides being gross violation of the Right to Freedom of Association(ILO Convention 87), Rights to Collective Bargaining( ILO Convention 98) and also the internationally accepted norm of eight hour working day – espoused by Core Conventions of International Labour Organisation (ILO). The ILO Convention 144 in regard to Tripartism has also been undermined by the Government.”
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