New Delhi: The parliamentary committee on labour Monday termed the decision of state governments like Punjab and Madhya Pradesh to increase working hours in factories from 8 to 12 as “illegal” and said it can’t be accepted, ThePrint has learnt.
The panel, headed by BJD MP Bhartruhari Mahtab, met physically Monday — the first time since the Covid-19 lockdown — to discuss changes in labour laws announced by several state governments during the lockdown and the issues faced by migrant labour force during the pandemic. The meeting was attended by just 11 of the 28 members.
One of the MPs, who attended the meeting, told ThePrint that Mahtab told the labour secretary that if some states have increased the working hours from 8 to 12, it is illegal and the Centre should not allow it.
“The labour secretary concurred with Mahtab that it can’t be allowed. Some of the other MPs also supported Mahtab. The BJD MP also said that if a labourer is working beyond 8 hours, he/she will have to be paid overtime,” the MP said.
Since the lockdown was enforced on 25 March, states such as Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan increased the daily working hours in manufacturing units from 8 to 12. The move had drawn the ire of trade unions.
UP, however, was forced to withdraw the order after it was issued a notice by Allahabad High Court.
Labour issues are part of the concurrent list and so states can frame their own law. But they require the President’s assent to amend the central law.
Issues on labour laws
Another MP, who attended the meeting, said, “Mahtab told the labour ministry officials that if this type of changes are affected in labour laws by different states, then what is the point of codifying the 44 labour laws into four codes?”
Members were of the view that if the changes initiated by states are in line with proposed central labour codes, only then it should be accepted.
To reform the archaic laws, the Modi government has initiated the process of converting the existing 44 central labour laws into four codes — Code on Wages, Code on Industrial Relations, Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions, and Code on Social Security.
While the Code on Wages has been passed by the Parliament, the remaining three are still awaiting approval.
Social security number for all migrants
The first MP mentioned above said that some of the BJP MPs raised the issue of how the benefits of the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojana has failed to reach the migrant workers in many states, including Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.
“The MPs said that in several states migrant workers have not received the free ration that was announced under the PM Gareeb Kalyan Yojana. The labour ministry officials were told to look into the matter,” the MP said.
The parliamentarians also called for registration of all migrant workers, but said that only Aadhaar cards should not be the sole document for registration. Panel members batted for a social security number for all migrant workforce in the country, which they said will help the migrant workers register themselves in the proposed national portal being developed for them.