Labour Reforms: Civil Services Mentor Magazine - January - 2015

Labour Reforms

There are various labour laws for regulating employment and conditions of service of workers. These laws also provide for maintaining registers and furnishing returns to the concerned enforcement authorities. The labour laws of independent India derive their origin, inspiration and strength partly from the views expressed by important nationalist leaders during the days of national freedom struggle, partly from the debates of the Constituent Assembly and partly from the provisions of the Constitution and the International Conventions and Recommendations. The relevance of the dignity of human labour and the need for protecting and safeguarding the interest of labour as human beings has been enshrined in Chapter-III (Articles 16, 19, 23 & 24) and Chapter IV (Articles 39, 41, 42, 43, 43A & 54) of the Constitution of India keeping in line with Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy.

But according to some analysts labour laws has become a hinderace in the growth of industries in the country. Under the Constitution of India, Labour is a subject in the concurrent list where both the Central and State Governments are competent to enact legislations. There are 45 different national- and state-level labour legislation in India. Important among those are-

  • The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.
  • The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986.
  • The Factories Act, 1948
  • The Trade Unions Act, 1926
  • The Apprentices Act, 1961

Labour laws in India are very rigid and number of laws increase with the size of industry. Industries in India have demanded labour reforms since a long time. Industry wants flexibility in relation to hiring and firing of employees. Industry’s wants to have laws which make it easy to close down and introduce the technological advancements without the intervention of the government. Archaic and old inspection system has also been a bone of contention for the industries, they claim inspection system gives too much power in the hands of inspectors. But workers claim that these laws protect the genuine interests of the workers. In order to look into the matter Standing Committee on Labour laws under the Hemanand Biswal was setup which has submitted its report in 2011. Based on the recommendation given by committee and opinions from various quarters Rajya sabha has passed a bill to simplify labour law procedures. Bill is named as the Labour Laws (Exemption from Furnishing Returns and Maintaining Registers by Certain Establishments) Amendment Bill, 2011.

Important features of the act are-

  • Bill redefines the small establishment whichwill include a unit employing between 10-40 people.

  • The Bill increases the number of laws under which units and small establishments will be exempt from maintaining registers and filings returns. The seven Acts that are added to the list includes; Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961; Payment of Bonus Act, 1965; Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service)Act, 1979; Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996; Beedi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966; Dock Workers (Safety, Health and Welfare) Act, 1986; Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986.

  • The Bill also adds that the employer may maintain the returns filed and the registers on a computer, computer disk or other electronic media.

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