New Delhi: The union government Wednesday completed the tripartite consultations before finalising the labour code rules amid oppositions from the trade unions but asked stake holders including the employees and employers to submit any further written feedback by 27 Jan.
Trade unions across party affiliations opposed several provisions including fixed term employment, keeping smaller firms from the purview of contract labour rules, and differential working hours for formal and informal workers. Employers groups favoured the reform steps including reduced compliance, single registration system for labour law compliance, and promotion of fixed term jobs. The employers’ representatives, however, sought clarity from the government on grievance redressal and statutory deductions for calculation of social security provisions.
“The labour codes have many progressive steps in sync with present day requirements. The fixed term employment provision is a welcome step. This is the third round of tripartite consultations on labour code rules. Some trade unions did not participate earlier, this time it was a face-to-face meeting and all were there,” said Ramakant Bhardwaj, vice president of Laghu Udyog Bharti, a micro and small enterprises network.
Bharadwaj, who attended the meeting Wednesday, said the union labour ministry said any further feedback or suggestions can be shared only till 27 of Jan.
Last week, labour secretary Apurva Chandra had said that the final round of tripartite discussion among government, employers and employees organisations will take place on 20th Jan and rules will be finalised by 31 Jan.
Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, a central trade union asked the labour ministry to bring contract workers in smaller companies under the purview of the labour codes. The union government has proposed to exempt firms having less than 50 workers from this rule. “BMS strongly objected to the exclusion of contract labour from the purview of Labour Codes up to 50 workers and said Codes should provide for their protection,” said BMS, affiliated to RSS, the ideological parent of ruling BJP.
“BMS demanded that Labour Code should provide that contractors should comply ESI and EPF strictly. Employer’s liability to pay wages, EPF, ESI and other benefits should be ensured even when one contract worker is employed. Government departments and establishments should not be exempted from the Codes, as they are increasingly engaging contract labour and temporary workers,” said BMS in a statement after the consultations with ministry.
It further said that fixed term employment should not be allowed to take the place of permanent jobs, a point that other trade unions also demanded.
“We opposed the fixed term criteria, the move to increase working hours up-to 16 hours during emergency without defining emergency. There is discrepancy in working hour rules in different codes for formal and informal workers. The overtime rule now talks about quarterly quota instead of weekly and monthly, which will lead to exploitation of employees and promote hiring-firing culture in workspace,” said Amrajeet Kaur, general secretary of all India Trade Union Congress.
Kaur said a group 10 central unions demanded that all the four codes should be put on hold and then discussions should start with the all stake holders afresh on each of the codes “in the true spirit of bipartite and tripartite consultations”.
Industry chambers like Confederation of Indian Industry has already given kits submission seeking clarity on salary calculations and stautiry deductions. “It is unclear how contractual bonus, performance linked bonus, joining bonus, employee referrals, non-commission based incentives/rewards etc. would be treated and whether they will form a part of wages,” the CII has asked the ministry. This calculation will be key to deduct EPF and ESIC payments every month.
A labour ministry spokesperson said they are not issuing any formal statement as yet on the meeting proceedings.