Government moves to overhaul labour laws; Oppn protests

Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar introduced the Code on Wages Bill and the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions (OSH) Code Bill in the Lok Sabha describing it as a “historic step” to ensure statutory protection for minimum wages and timely payment of wages to 500 million workers. (PTI Photo)

The Centre on Tuesday introduced two bills in the Lok Sabha to overhaul labour laws in the country with an aim to improve the ease of doing business.

The introduction of the two bills witnessed strong resistance, with the Opposition members who demanded closer scrutiny of the draft legislations that subsume 17 labour laws by a Parliamentary Standing Committee.

Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar introduced the Code on Wages Bill and the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions (OSH) Code Bill in the Lok Sabha describing it as a “historic step” to ensure statutory protection for minimum wages and timely payment of wages to 500 million workers.

The OSH Code seeks to simplify, amalgamate and rationalise the provisions of 13 central labour laws into a concise volume with certain important changes. It would apply to all establishments having 10 or more workers, other than those relating to mines and docks.

The Code on Wages Bill will subsume four wage-related laws and remove the multiplicity of definitions and authorities without compromising on the basic concepts of welfare and benefits to workers.

Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Trinamool member Saugata Ray and RSP leader N K Premachandran demanded that the Bills be referred to a parliamentary standing committee.

Chowdhury questioned the intentions of the government contending that the Bills were being introduced in the Lok Sabha without arriving at a consensus among trade unions on the move.

Gangwar took the plea that the Code on Wages Bill had been cleared by the Standing Committee of the previous Lok Sabha and may not need further scrutiny. He added that the government would abide by the decision of the Lok Sabha on the issue of OSH Code Bill.

The OSH bill proposes a single-registration, single-licence regime for companies, instead of multiple permissions under 13 labour laws and also allows women to work night shifts.

Labour reforms have been a key aspect of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's governance agenda since he came to power in 2014 and the government now wants to push it aggressively after receiving a resounding mandate in the recent general elections.

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