Fire at will: New labour bill lets firms with 300 workers ‘terminate’ freely

The Industrial Relations Code Bill seeks to increase layoff threshold for companies, proposes terms that would constrict rights of workers to strike or seek help of labour unions  

Factory workers
Photo for representational purpose only: iStock

Under changes proposed by the central government in The Industrial Relations Code Bill, 2020 companies having up to 300 workers can hire and sack employees without any prior approval of the government.

Union Labour and Employment Minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar, proposed the bill along with two others – Occupational safety, health and working conditions code, 2020 and Code on social security, 2020 – in the Lok Sabha on Saturday (September 19), to the vehement opposition of Congress leaders.

Currently, only companies will less than 100 employees have the right to hire or fire employees at will.

The IR Code bill also has provisions that would restrict the rights of workers to strike. According to the new provisions of the bill, workers in small firms will no more be protected by trade unions or labour laws neither strikes by them considered legal.

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The Industrial Relation Code Bill, 2019, which was first introduced in the Lok Sabha last year before being sent to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour, was withdrawn on Saturday.

The draft version of the revised bill introduced new changes pertaining to retrenchment and layoff rules and right of workers to strike. The draft bill was also backed by the concerned Parliamentary committee in its report in April. The committee had cited the example of states like Rajasthan which have increased the layoff threshold from companies with 100 workers to those with 300. It had argued that the changes had facilitated decrease in retrenchment and increase in employment.

As far as the right of workers to strike is concerned, the IR Code bill says that no person working in an industrial firm can conduct a strike without a 60-day notice and during the pendency of proceedings before a tribunal or a national industrial tribunal, and 60 days after the conclusion of such proceedings. The latter is a newly-introduced condition in the 2020 version if the bill.

The standing committee had refused to recommend any expansion of the required notice period to go on strike beyond the public utility services.

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Under the current laws, a person employed with a public utility service has to give notice for strike six week before going on strike or within 14 days of giving the notice. The new bill proposes to extend the rule to all industrial establishments.

Opposing the bills in Parliament, Congress leader Manish Tewari said the bills are altered versions of their original forms and demanded that the labour minister holds consultations with the stakeholders before tabling them.

 

 

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