Tides of Change-Labour Laws in India

Bangalore City

The amendments to the Labour Laws continue to be debated as workers all over the country protest against them.

Yashasvini Razdan | Bengaluru

The amendment of the 44 labour laws into four codes in the name of simplification and dilution, will only favour the corporates, says Vijay Bhaskar, Assistant Secretary of Karnataka State Council, Communist Party of India (CPI).

Many trade union members from different parts of Karnataka expressed their dissent towards the Labour Reforms initiated by the Central Government today at the JCTU, Karnataka State Level Worker’s Convention.

Vijay Bhaskar and General Secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) highlighted the demands of the workers. He said, “The massive mandate that the central government got has led to a rise in the anti-worker, pro corporate policies.”

A worker at the convention who worked in a local textile company, said, “The government has become stricter with the rules. Companies have to give out their GST invoices by the end of the month to pay taxes. The workers in these companies are also supposed to be paid by the beginning of the month. The Provident Fund (PF) has to be paid by the tenth of every month.”

He added, “Small scale industries suffer the most due to this. This puts a lot of pressure on the small enterprises. So with all the tax deadlines, it gets difficult to pay the salaries of the workers.”

An All India Trade Union Committee (AITUC) member at the convention, who works in a multinational company (MNC) that manufactures valves, talked about the problems faced by MNC workers.

“MNCs have to pay minimum wages to their workers. The government’s policies have led these MNC’s to lay off their employees. Companies like Toyoto Kirloskar, Hitachi etc are offering Voluntary Retirement Services (VRS). Technically, it is supposed to be voluntary but in practice we are forced to take up VRS. If we don’t, they will burden us with more work and make the working conditions so tough that we have to leave,” he said.

The Code on Wages 2019, an act to amend and consolidate the laws relating to wages and bonus came into being on August 8, 2019 after attaining the President’s seal. 

The amendments to the labour laws, as per the Karnataka Labour Department, are long due and need to be implemented. The change in the labour laws has been done so as to promote the growth of small businesses and startups.

 In the list of countries where setting up of businesses is the easiest, according to the Karnataka Labour Department, India has jumped up from 145 to 63,

One of the officials from the department, said, “People are setting up businesses and investors are investing in them. The old labour laws were extremely complicated and people refused to open up businesses in India as the amount of paperwork was too much.”

Vijay Bhaskar added that the Code of Wages, 2019 has totally ignored the Minimum Wages Schedule. “In Karnataka, the minimum wage was roughly between Rs. 10,500 to Rs. 14,000, but the Central government has fixed the minimum wage to Rs. 189 which does not even cross Rs. 5000 per month.” he said.

Ms. Sudha, the economics professor at Government Ramnarayan Chellaram College for Commerce and Management said, “Government should have a dual policy to encourage small enterprises. The government should go soft on the small scale industries and give them more time to pay the taxes and the rigid laws should be imposed on the large scale industries. The government needs to stream line the labour laws. The industries can be categorised into small scale and large scale depending upon the investment and number workers and accordingly the policies should be implemented.”

She added, “We have had the same labour laws for a long time and I believe that it is time for change, but the change should be gradual.”