RSS affiliate raises red flag over Industrial Relations Code Bill

Weak growth in manufacturing sector is expected to have a ripple effect on steel demand in India. Photo | iStock

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-affiliate Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) on Friday (November 29) demanded that the government should send the Industrial Relations Code Bill to a parliamentary standing committee for a redraft as certain provisions are against the interest of workers.

Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar introduced the bill in the Lok Sabha on Thursday amid protest by the opposition parties.

“Government should withdraw the provisions going against the interest of the workers in IR Code and send to Parliamentary Standing Committee to redraft it,” the BMS said in a statement.

The BMS also asked the government that it should urgently find ways to address industrial failures otherwise the burden is being conveniently shifted to the shoulders of workers in the name of labour reforms.

The union has decided to discuss its further course of action on the provisions and about industrial failure in a meeting to be held in Haridwar from December 11-13, 2019.

It pointed out that the draft law will create a battleground in the industrial sector as many provisions are against the interest of workers.

The large exemption regime proposed will create jungle Raj where parties will be compelled to settle their disputes with muscle power. Lack of expertise and vision is explicit in such an exercise of redrafting India’s labour laws, it added.

It is of the view that the present provisions prohibiting strike will make the industrial sector a conflict zone destroying industrial peace and will create friction at floor level.

The bill provides for a notice of strike before 14 days and within 2 months. The union thinks that it is clearly a restraint on strike and asked to remove penalty for “illegal” strike.

Fixed-term employment is a new definition in the bill, which was not in the last draft, BMS said. Casualisation and contractualisation is going to create an explosive situation in the near future and it will also lead to below quality productive activities in Industrial sector and create an India of “casualised” labour, the union added.

The BMS also said that the government has no business in interfering with internal matters of trade unions like fixing the rate of subscriptions payable by the members, prohibition on person holding an office of profit as office bearer, restraining outsiders as office bearers, protecting members of trade unions who do not participate in strike thereby creating split and weaken trade union.

On the definition of “wages”, it said that it excludes a long list of allowances, which will assist unscrupulous employers to avoid payment to Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) and Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF), which is against the Supreme Court decision in Group Four case. The union also objected to the definition of “worker” which expressly excludes apprentice.

It is also against the provision which makes oral evidence in disputes about standing orders inadmissible and arbitrary powers given to the government to nullify the awards of Tribunals passed after a long trial.

The time limit prescribed for the worker to apply for the execution of recovery of money as “within one year” is also an anti-worker provision whereas the general civil law says 12 years. This is to support unscrupulous employers, it pointed out.

Different dates for implementing different provisions, exclusion clauses, Government’s power to give exemption, complicated definitions, the threshold limit for coverage of certain chapters are age old methods which are against the spirit of Codification and simplification, the union added.

(With inputs from agencies)