Jamshedpur, Sept. 24: Parliament on Wednesday passed the three labour code bills – the Occupational Safety, Health And Working Conditions Code, 2020; the Industrial Relations Code, 2020; and the Code on Social Security, 2020. While the Bills have been welcomed by Indian Inc, labour rights activists are opposing the changes.
XLRI Professor K.R. Shyam Sundar, has criticised the bills.
According to Prof. Shyam Sundar, “It was unfortunate that the government had chosen to effect these changes at a time when the country is ridden with a pandemic and unemployment rates are alarmingly high. In a civilised and progressive Society, the ambit of labour laws must be widened as economic development takes place. However, given the neo-liberal form of globalisation that has been witnessed in India, a reverse is taking place.”
“Firstly, the three labour codes seen together fails to achieve even reasonable balance between enabling of ease of doing business, and protecting & strengthening labour welfare and their rights.
Secondly, the liberalization of regulations concerning standing orders and prior permission regulations of lay-off, retrenchment and closure from 100 to 300 means around 90% of the working factories and a little over than 40% of workers employed therein will be outside their purview. These together liberalization of thresholds of regulations concerning conditions of work in factories and contract labour employment mean further deprivations. Further, the IR Code has given powers to the state governments to exempt establishments or class of establishments from any or all provisions which unlike its predecessor ID Act does not specify the conditions. Taken together these provide too much flexibility to the employers and too little protection to employees and the absence of provisions relating to unemployment allowance/insurance in the Social Security Code means workers would have fend for themselves. Too much flexibility is as bad as too little, the pendulum of labour law in India swings to either extremes. That is from strong to soft regulations
Thirdly, the labour codes bill may promote jobs but bad quality ones, casual, contract and temporary etc. Regular work category of employment will be a thing of the past.
Fourthly, wage workers in the agricultural sector, domestic workers, bidi workers and even street vendors do not seem to figure in the social security code which means deprivation of this vital Code. Further, this Code unlike its predecessor, the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008 does not provide portable smart identity card though it provides for registration. Thus, it is an incomplete code and reflects poor drafting.
Finally, the hidden objective of the codes, the IR code especially is to reduce the substantially the labour cost in small enterprises which are parts of the domestic and global supply chain which in turn will benefits not the small enterprises but the big players like the OEMs,” he added.