Working hours can only be increased if employees are paid overtime: Centre
In a major development, the Centre has told a Parliamentary standing committee that working hours of employees cannot be increased beyond eight hours in a day without compensating the employees for the overtime. This decision has come in view of the efforts made by several states to bring changes in labour laws in the country including the extension of working hours beyond eight hours and suspending key labour laws for three years or more to intensify economic recovery after COVID-19 crisis.
On Monday, top officials of the Ministry of Labour and Employment held a meeting with the parliamentary standing committee on labour, which was headed by BJD MP Bhartruhari Mahtab, to review the modifications in labour laws proposed by at least nine state governments during the lockdown. Taking note of the changes proposed by various states, the parliamentary panel had written to their governments seeking clarification on their decision.
Responding to the questions of the panel on dilution of labour laws, labour ministry officials maintained that working hours can only be increased with the consultation of employees and they must be compensated for overtime. In addition, the officials also told the panel the changes suggested by the state governments have to be in accordance with the proposed four labour codes of the central government.
Ever since the lockdown has been imposed in the country on March 25, states including Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh increased daily working hours of workers from 8 to 12 in several manufacturing industries. However, the move invited criticism from various sections of society, particularly trade unions.
The parliamentary panel members also called for a social security number for all migrant workers across the country which will allow them to registers on various portals initiated for their benefits.
In 2014, the Modi government 1.0 had announced a plan to consolidate 44 central labour Acts into four codes – Code on Wages, Code on Industrial Relations, Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions, and Code on Social Security. While one Code on Wages has been passed by the Parliament, the other three codes are still waiting to be notified. According to the Code of Wages, universal minimum wages will be provided to workers across the country.
Earlier this month, several trade unions around the country including All Indian Trade Union Congress (AITUC) and Centre of India Trade Unions (CITU) protested against the Centre’s labour policies to merge 44 laws into four codes. They asserted that the move would take away more than 80% rights of workers and will lead to exploitation of workers.
Meanwhile, the Labour Ministry has reportedly finalised two labour codes offering flexibility to state governments on hiring of workers in factories and industrial units and retrenching and fixing their working hours.