From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not much
Mains level : Labor reforms and proposed labor codes
Centre proposed to replace 44 labour laws with four codes.
Problems with the codes
- These codes are antithetical to the very idea of statutory protection of labour and dignified standard of living for workers
- Original labour laws were enacted after decades of struggle and were meant to ensure certain dignity to the working-class people
- Ministry of Labour’s proposal to fix the national minimum floor wage at ₹178 is devoid of any defined criteria or method of estimation.
- This may lead to a race to the bottom by States, to attract capital and investments.
- This is being called ‘starvation wage’ as the Ministry’s own committee recommended ₹375 as the minimum.
- The four codes exclude over 95% of the workforce employed in informal units and small enterprises, who are in greater need of legal safeguards.
- There is no clarity on who constitutes an ‘employer’, an ‘employee’ or an ‘enterprise’, giving the owner greater discretion to interpret the provisions.
- To minimise wage bills and compliance requirements, it is proposed that ‘apprentices’ be no longer considered employees.
- Evidence indicates that apprentices are made to do jobs of contractual as well as permanent employees.
- The code has a provision on “employees below fifteen years of age”, which can be construed as legalisation of child labour.
- The code on wages legitimises and promotes further contractualisation of labour, instead of abolishing it.
- Wage code brings back the provision of “recoverable advances”, a system linked to coercive and bonded labour by the Supreme Court. The distressed and vulnerable migrant labourers could be bonded to work through advance payments.
- The 8-hour workday shift has been done away with, and multiple provisions of increased overtime have been inserted.
- The code also gives ample alibis to employers to evade bonus payments.
- Non-payment of wages will now not be a criminal offence and penalties in case of non-compliance have been reduced.
- Code on industrial relations is replete with restrictions on forming or registering unions, calling a strike and seeking legal redressal for workers.
Proposed laws resemble ‘employer codes’ rather than ‘labour laws’.