San­tosh Gang­war,

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Min­is­ter of State (In­de­pen­dent Charge) for Labour and Em­ploy­ment

Gen­eral elec­tions be­ing just over one year away not­with­stand­ing, the gov­ern­ment is not look­ing at slow­ing down on labour re­forms in 2018 and is likely to get at least two codes on wages as well as in­dus­trial re­la­tions passed by Par­lia­ment. The Min­istry of Labour and Em­ploy­ment has en­vis­aged to con­cise over 44 labour laws into four broad codes in wages, in­dus­trial re­la­tions, so­cial se­cu­rity, and oc­cu­pa­tional safety, health and work­ing con­di­tions. Labour Sec­re­tary M Sathiya­vathy ex­pressed the min­istry's in­tent to push all four codes for pas­sage in Par­lia­ment next year. "Gov­ern­ment is not go­ing slow on labour re­forms. All four codes would be pushed in 2018," she said. The cod­i­fi­ca­tion of the labour laws will re­move the mul­ti­plic­ity of def­i­ni­tions and au­thor­i­ties lead­ing to ease of com­pli­ance with­out com­pro­mis­ing wage se­cu­rity and so­cial se­cu­rity to work­ers. The draft Code on Wages Bill 2017 was in­tro­duced in the Lok Sabha in Au­gust 2017. The bill will be pushed for con­sid­er­a­tion and pas­sage in the Lok Sabha and sub­se­quently in the Ra­jya Sabha in 2018. The Code on Wages ra­tio­nalises, amal­ga­mates and sim­pli­fies the rel­e­vant pro­vi­sions of the four labour laws--The Min­i­mum Wages Act, 1948; The Pay­ment of Wages Act, 1936; The Pay­ment of Bonus Act, 1965, and The Equal Re­mu­ner­a­tion Act, 1976. Sim­i­larly, Code on In­dus­trial Re­la­tions Bill has been fi­nalised by a group of min­is­ters headed by Fi­nance Min­is­ter Arun Jait­ley and is likely to be ap­proved soon for putting it be­fore Union Cab­i­net so that it could be pushed for pas­sage in Par­lia­ment next year. The Trade Unions Act, 1926, the In­dus­trial Em­ploy­ment (Stand­ing Or­ders) Act, 1946, and the In­dus­trial Dis­putes Act, 1947, would be com­bined into the code on in­dus­trial re­la­tions. The unions had ob­jected the pro­posed amend­ment in the bill to al­low units with up to 300 work­ers to re­trench, lay off or close down with­out the permission of the gov­ern­ment. Presently, all units with up to 100 work­ers can re­trench, lay off or

close down with­out the gov­ern­ment's permission. The gov­ern­ment is most likely to keep this pro­vi­sion in the new code. There­fore, the cod­i­fi­ca­tion of in­dus­trial re­la­tion laws would not al­low busi­nesses to hire and fire abruptly. Sim­i­larly, another pro­posal to in­crease sev­er­ance pay for re­trenched work­ers may not be part of the bill as it would be seen as an anti-in­dus­try move. It was pro­posed to in­crease the sev­er­ance pay to 45 days’ salary for each com­pleted year of ser­vice, from 15 days pro­vided at present. The drafts of the other two codes, so­cial se­cu­rity, and oc­cu­pa­tional safety, health and work­ing con­di­tions, would be fi­nalised for Union Cab­i­net ap­proval af­ter de­lib­er­a­tions on it through a tri­par­tite mech­a­nism. The sources say that the gov­ern­ment has tried to al­lay ap­pre­hen­sions of cen­tral trade unions dur­ing a dis­cus­sion on new so­cial se­cu­rity code but work­ers rep­re­sen­ta­tives are op­pos­ing it. The code pro­posed to merge re­tire­ment fund body Em­ploy­ees' Prov­i­dent Fund Or­gan­i­sa­tion (EPFO) and state health in­surer Em­ploy­ees' State In­sur­ance Cor­po­ra­tion (ESIC) "Through our com­ments in gen­eral, we have op­posed the pro­posal of merger of Em­ploy­ees Prov­i­dent & Mis­cel­la­neous Pro­vi­sions Act and Em­ploy­ees State In­sur­ance Cor­po­ra­tion Act as EPF & EPS schemes and ESI scheme func­tion­ing un­der th­ese two Acts have been ren­der­ing sat­is­fac­tory ser­vice to their mem­bers for the last 60 years,” All In­dia Trade Union Congress had said in a let­ter to the labour sec­re­tary. The union had also op­posed the other pro­posal un­der the code for cov­er­age of un­or­gan­ised work­ers with and with­out iden­ti­fi­able em­ployer, a sep­a­rate so­cial se­cu­rity or­gan­i­sa­tion be set up for pro­vid­ing so­cial se­cu­rity to them and a to­ken con­tri­bu­tion be charged from them while the ma­jor part of the con­tri­bu­tion should be made by the gov­ern­ment. Unions were also against the pro­posal of form­ing a Na­tional So­cial Se­cu­rity Coun­cil with the prime min­is­ter as chair­man, which shall con­trol and reg­u­late all the so­cial se­cu­rity schemes to be im­ple­mented in the coun­try. The code also pro­poses to hand over op­er­a­tion of so­cial se­cu­rity schemes to state gov­ern­ments. A source said that the codes on so­cial se­cu­rity and oc­cu­pa­tional safety, health and work­ing con­di­tions may take a bit longer and may not be able to get Par­lia­ment's ap­proval next year. Be­sides th­ese codes, a bill to amend Con­tract Labour Act will also be pushed for pas­sage in Par­lia­ment next year. The bill seeks to dis­tin­guish be­tween con­tract labour and work labour. The con­tract labour are work­ers which work for the or­gan­i­sa­tions pro­vided by con­trac­tors whereas the work labour work to com­ple­tion of cer­tain task like one-time re­pair of fac­tory or of­fice build­ings. Be­sides, the law would also pro­vide for regis­tra­tion of labour con­trac­tors with states as well as cen­tral gov­ern­ments. At present, the con­trac­tors have to seek permission of cen­tre and states for ev­ery con­tract to pro­vide work­ers. This will also help cen­tre and state gov­ern­ments to mon­i­tor th­ese con­trac­tors and would be able to black­list de­fault­ers and of­fend­ers. The Pay­ment of Gra­tu­ity (Amend­ment) Bill, 2017 is likely to see the light of the day in 2018. It was in­tro­duced in the Lok Sabha on De­cem­ber 18, 2017. The bill seeks to en­able cen­tral gov­ern­ment to en­hance ceil­ing of the max­i­mum amount of gra­tu­ity payable to an em­ployee. It is Rs 10 lakh. The gov­ern­ment has planned to dou­ble it. Af­ter this amend­ment, the gov­ern­ment would be able to in­crease the max­i­mum amount of gra­tu­ity by an ex­ec­u­tive order. Be­sides, the bill would also en­able the cen­tral gov­ern­ment to en­hance paid ma­ter­nity leave by ex­ec­u­tive order. At present, it is 12 weeks un­der the Act. The Ma­ter­nity Ben­e­fit (Amend­ment) Act, 2017 has enhanced the max­i­mum ma­ter­nity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. Labour Bureau, a wing of the min­istry, would also con­duct first of its kind sur­vey to gauge em­ploy­ment gen­er­a­tion un­der Mu­dra scheme of the cen­tral gov­ern­ment, which is fac­ing charges of job loss af­ter de­mon­eti­sa­tion last year.

San­tosh Gang­war, Min­is­ter of State (In­de­pen­dent Charge) for Labour and Em­ploy­ment

Labour Sec­re­tary M. Sathiya­vathy

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