Sunday, July 26, 2020


A file photo of an industrial area in Mysuru . 

They say several crucial laws have been amended to tilt the balance in favour of industries

As the State government unveiled the New Industrial Policy, 2020–25, to attract investors, trade unions are protesting over the manner in which several crucial labour laws have been amended to tilt the balance in favour of industries.

The sweeping changes brought to Factories Act, Industrial Disputes Act, and Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, unions fear, will put more than 70% of the factories in the State outside the purview of the labours laws, which makes workers vulnerable for exploitation and without any legal safeguards.

“The Factories Act, which governed workers’ overtime wages, hours of work, shift timings, safety and health issues, and even designs of the industry for workers’ safety, will not be applicable to a majority of factories any more. The factories were already circumventing the law by reducing the permanent workforce and increase contract labour, and changes to the Industrial Disputes Act will only push workers into penury,” said M.D. Harigovind, general secretary, All India Trade Union Congress, Bengaluru, said.

Industrial jurisprudence that has to set a level-playing field between capital and labour, Centre of Indian Trade Unions general secretary Meenakshi Sundaram pointed out, will now be tilted in favour of industrialists. “Though attempts were made to dilute the labour laws before, the workers had fought against it. Now, the COVID-19 pandemic situation has been used to bring in changes. Workers who have now lost the legal cover, will also lose the bargaining power. With most factories out of the purview of the Factories Act, even those designated as hazardous will be out of the legal purview,” he said.

In Karnataka, Mr. Sundaram said, the labour-industry relationship had been congenial, and did not have labour unrest unlike in other places. “In most factories, there are single unions. There was really no need to bring this Ordinance to change the labour laws,” he argued.

The Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade has been pushing for such changes since 2017, and Union Labour Ministry had in May 2020 sought changes in the labour laws on priority. The State sought concurrence from the Ministry of Home Affairs before the Cabinet approved the Industrial Disputes and Certain Other Laws (Karnataka Amendment) Ordinance, 2020.

Meanwhile, Labour Minister Shivaram Hebbar defended the changes stating that they would help bring in investors, especially those relocating from China. “The State Cabinet only confirmed the Ordinance since it has already received the Presidential assent,” he said.

Legal recourse, protest planned

The move to promulgate the Industrial Disputes and Certain Other Laws (Karnataka Amendment) Ordinance, 2020, will be challenged in court, CITU general secretary Mr. Sundaram has said.

Workers will also burn the copies of the Ordinance and the standing order on fixed-term employment at the factory gates on July 29. “Save India”, a massive protest by workers has been planned on August 10 to protest dilution of labour laws, he added.

On Friday, the Joint Committee of Trade Unions also met the Principal Secretary Labour Maheshwar Rao and handed over a memorandum, expressing opposition to the changes to labour laws. The JCTU has asked the government to withdraw the changes.


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