Lok Sabha passes three labour codes; govt says workers to get salary, social security

New Delhi: Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed three labour codes amid boycott of the House proceedings by several Opposition parties, with the government emphasising that these codes will provide salary security, social security and proper environment at work places to 50 crore workers.
Opposition parties, including the Congress, walked out of the House in protest against the suspension of eight Rajya Sabha members.
The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020, the Industrial Relations Code, 2020, and the Code on Social Security, 2020 were passed by the Lower House.
Noting that the House was witnessing a historic day, Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar said these codes will provide salary security, social security and proper environment at workplaces to 50 crore workers.
The objective of these laws are to provide all kinds of facilities and healthy environment to workers, Gangwar said, adding that in the last six years, the government has taken several steps for employees such as increase in maternity leave period to 26 weeks, allowing women to work in mines sector and pension scheme for small traders.
“With these steps, we had started work for labour reforms,” he said.
Taking a swipe at the Opposition, he said people who have walked out from the House did nothing for workers when they were in power.
For the first time, a code has mentioned about the provision of providing appointment letters to workers, he said, adding that now a worker would get at least 50 per cent of the penalty in addition with compensation in accidental cases.
Talking about Industrial Relations Code, he said there will be no threshold limit for implementation of the code as it will cover all organisations even if it will have one labour.
He noted that fixed term employment would get all benefits at par with regular employees.
Further, the minister said the provision of 14 days notice before going for strike would help management and workers to resolve differences.
He said that raising the threshold for closure, retrenchment and layoff without government permission for units having up to 300 employees will help in attracting investors and creating jobs.
Regarding the issue of limiting the definition of migrant labours raised by some members, the minister said they have made this definition more inclusive.
If the salary of these workers are less than Rs 18,000, they would come under it and they will be able to avail the welfare schemes of the government, he noted.
“This government is very sensitive to migrant labourers. We have made several provisions for their welfare in this code. Under this, for the first time we have made a provision for preparing a database for migrant labour,” he said, adding states will have to prepare a detailed data base for the workers.
“They will get a journey allowance once in a year to visit their native place by employer. For them, we are also providing the facility of portability of welfare schemes and to address their grievances, a provision is made to create a helpline,” he said.
Gangwar also said there would be a free annual health checkup for workers of a certain age group.
The minister said that under the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, “we have widened the applicability of health and welfare provisions”.
So far, the code was applicable only in certain areas like mines, construction, plantation and motor transport, “now it will be implemented on IT and other services sector,” he said, adding that provisions have been made for inclusion of people working in the entertainment sector.
“Similarly, we have included people working in the digital media sector under the category of working journalist,” he added.
Over 29 labour laws have been merged into four codes and one of them — Code on Wages Bill, 2019 — had already been passed.
According to Gangwar, India should gradually move to universal social security system.
“We have provided for a social security fund for 40 crore informal workers,” he said.
The benefit of health insurance schemes under ESIC would be provided to all workers in hazardous category industries, he added.
Starting the debate on the three bills, Pallab Lochan Das of the BJP said that it is for the first time that such extensive labour reforms are being undertaken.
Although the country has 44 labour laws for the past several decades, the standard of living of workers has not improved, he said.
BJD member Pinaki Misra said there could have been minimum health and safety standards in the code, and also suggested that the government have a relook at the definition of ‘workers’.
While supporting the bill, he also said that certain provisions needed to be relooked at.
Margani Bharat of the YSR Congress said the codes will push forward ease of doing business in the country as well as help in attracting more foreign direct investments.
According to BJP’s Virendra Kumar, the codes will help in ensuring the welfare of labourers and also reduce ‘inspector raj’.
Another BJP member Dilip Ghosh said the codes will ensure that all stakeholders work with discipline and also that corruption does not happen in labour unions. Ghosh, who is from West Bengal, also claimed the situation of labourers was bad in the state.
TDP’s Jayadev Galla and Dileshwar Kamait (JD-U) also supported the codes.

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