Labour laws set to undergo sea change

The Centre has set the ball rolling for labour law reforms with consultations with various stake holders to make sweeping changes in the country’s labour laws.

A working group on the Labour Laws and Other Labour Regulations headed by Labour Secretary Prabhat Chaturvedi, under the Planning Commission has started consultation with labour unions, state governments, different union ministries and industry chambers for the mammoth task.

As the Centre is gearing up for opening of foreign direct investment (FDI) in various sectors, including retail, the industry chambers have been pushing the government to bring in labour reforms.

At the outset, the Union Labour Ministry is planning to club the existing 44 central labour acts into just 14 in an attempt to remove the hassles in the present system and reduce the burden on inspection and enforcement machinery.

“The working group will review all central labour laws, including the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 and the Factories Act, 1948 and will submit its recommendations in September,” sources in the Planning Commission told Deccan Herald.

However, while making reforms, the core issues of existing laws like minimum wages, social security, occupational safety and health related issues will be intact, sources said, adding that these core issues will be further improved to remove the administrative cost of implementation and simplify the procedure.

There are several proposals on the table, including extending facilities enjoyed by regular employees like wage rate, working hours, holidays and social security benefits to contract labourers too, if both perform similar nature of work.

Another proposal is that Employees Provident Fund (EPF) facilities and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952, should be made applicable to the establishment having 10 or more employees.

“The wage ceiling of Rs 6,500 per month may be enhanced for increasing the coverage of the EPF and the amount of pension and their calculation may be amended as at present the pension is very meagre,” says agenda paper of the working group.

Wage revision
Other issues the working group will be dealt with are periodical revision of minimum wages, bringing separate labour law for micro, small and medium enterprises, enforcing the Minimum Wages Act on all employments, and application of labour laws to workers in both organised and unorganised sectors. Apart from the Chaturvedi Committee, another working group on regulatory framework for businesses led by Planning Commission member Arun Maira is also studying the issue.

The Chaturvedi panel's recommendations will be vetted by the steering committee on labour, employment and skill development led by Planning Commission member Narender Jadhav, as part of the plan committee's objective of achieving convergence between the reports of the two groups before finalising its strategy.

On the cards
* Contract and regular employees to get same facilities
* Minimum wages should be revised periodically
* Separate labour law for micro, small and medium enterprises
* Minimum Wages Act applicable to all employments
* Application of labour laws to both organised and unorganised segments

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