The Uttar Pradesh government has approved an ordinance exempting all establishments, factories, and businesses from the purview of most labour laws for over three years. Laws that would no longer apply include the Minimum Wages Act, Trade Unions Act, Industrial Disputes Act, Factories Act, Contract Labour Act, Payment of Bonus Act, Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act, Working Journalists Act, Employees’ Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act. This ordinance is now pending approval of the central government. In Madhya Pradesh, all provisions, except Section 25 of the Industrial Disputes Act, have been relaxed, working hour has been extended to 12 hours a day, establishments employing less than 50 workers have been excluded from inspection under various labour laws, In industries with less than 100 labourers, exemptions have been given from provisions of the Madhya Pradesh Industrial Employment (Permanent Order) Act, fixed term employment has been approved, a provision has been made to maintain a single register instead of various registers under labour laws and to file a single return instead of 13 now, under the Factory Act, exemption has been given to factories from inspection for a period of three months. Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani has declared that Gujarat is planning to exempt new projects from provisions of labour laws if the unit will work for at least 1,200 days.
Maharashtra has made exemption of section 51, 52, 54, 56 of Factories Act and has allowed extension of working hour upto12 hours a day. Assam government has allowed introduction of fixed term employment in industries, increase in minimum number of workers for implementation of the Factories Act from 10 to 20 (factories run with power) and 20 to 40 (without power). It also has approved increase in minimum number of workers for implementation of Contract Labour Act from 20 to 50 and increase in shift hours from 8 to 12 hours.
Other states like Rajasthan, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh has also amended the Factories Act since last month and raised the working hours from 8 to 12 hours per day. These changes are nothing but a ploy to transfer the cost and crisis of the pandemic to the working class, preserving the interests and profits of the capitalists and exploiting the corona crisis for fast track implementation of anti-worker labour law reforms, even bypassing the parliament. This will increase job loss, abolish job security, dilute industrial safety and increase industrial accidents and throw a huge majority of workforce out of any legal safety net, and effectively bring back the practice of bonded labour in production. This will push back the gains of working-class struggle for basic rights and dignified job by a hundred years.
Already the Indian working class is suffering from the corona crisis – job loss, salary cut, crisis of ration, shelter and other facilities, despite the evident fact that they build the wealth of nation. Particularly the crisis of migrant workers and unorganized workers has been severe. In this context, these measures will increase the precarious condition of workers by manifold. MASA demands immediate withdrawal of all ordinances/orders by different state governments that allow anti-workers measures in pretext of COVID-19 crisis.
MASA demands from the central government and all state governments immediate measure for the protection of workers’ rights and interests in this hour of crisis – secure jobs and full salary for all, universal health and social security, legislation for migrant workers’ rights and facilitation of their going back home free of cost, strong measures for industrial safety etc. We vow to fight for these rights of the workers and call upon all workers, all toiling masses and all democratic sections of society to rise up and fight for these rights. At present we will fight through the courts and virtually by all means possible. As soon as it is responsibly possible, we will move this struggle to the streets.
(Statement issued by MASA, Mazdoor Adhikar Sangharsh Abhiyan) n