Bengal, Kerala,TN lead opposition to Centre’s new labour codes

Critics say several provisions in the codes are anti-labour

Factory labour
iStock/Representational

Implementation of the Centre’s four labour codes that propose to restructure wages and increase working hours of employees is facing hurdles from state governments.

Many states, including West Bengal, have indicated against endorsing the codes, enacted by Parliament, in toto, alleging that there are many anti-labour provisions in the codes on industrial relations, social security, occupational safety, health and working conditions and wages.

The Centre missed the April 1 deadline to implement the codes, which envisage consolidating 29 central and more than 100 corresponding state labour laws into four codes as most state governments had not framed the rules.

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Since labour as a subject falls in the Concurrent List of the Constitution, both the Union and state governments need to notify rules under these codes to enforce them in their respective jurisdictions.

The West Bengal labour department after a consultative meeting with various trade unions earlier this week hinted that it would not adopt the “anti-labour” codes.

“Since we have found many provisions in the codes are anti-labours, I have asked all the trade unions to give a detailed report clause-wise specifying their objections to the codes by July 1. We will forward their report to the chief minister and chief secretary for taking a final call,” West Bengal Labour Minister Becharam Manna told The Federal.

“Trade unions are almost unanimous in their objections to the codes. We have also found these codes unfriendly to the interest of workers. Not many state will endorse them,” Manna said, dropping a broad hint about the stand the state government is likely to take.

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“The most objectionable provisions in the codes are proposals to extend the working hours up to 12 hours; allow firms with up to 300 employees to sack their workers without seeking the government’s approval and restrict the right to strike of the trade unions,” Manna said.

Under the new codes on wages, allowances are capped at 50 per cent, which means increased tax liability particularly of those who are earning a higher salary and also higher provident fund contribution.

The restructuring will reduce the take-home salary for employees but will increase retirement benefits.

States such as Tamil Nadu and Kerala also reportedly conveyed to the trade unions their reservations about adopting the codes in totality.

“Kerala and Tamil Nadu governments too are yet to draft their rules. They have said that they would go by the opinions of the trade unions. Similarly Maharashtra is also giving more weightage to the opinions of the trade unions,” said Amarjeet Kaur, general secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC).

So far, only a few states like Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and the Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir have published the draft rules under all the four codes.

“The process is that the states need to be taken on board for implementing the codes. But if all the BJP-ruled states frame rules, the Centre may still go ahead and implement the codes, bulldozing conventions,” Kaur said.

Such imposition might then lead to a tussle between the Centre and non-complying states.

“Legal options will always be open. But as I said, we are leaving it to the chief minister to decide on our next move on the labour codes,” Manna said.

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