Three labour reform bills were passed in parliament yesterday that are expected to render more flexibility to employers to recruit and lay off employees while ensuring social security for workers. The three bills passed are: Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions, Industrial Relations Code and Social Security Code. The bills were passed in the Lok Sabha by voice vote. Replying to the debate on the three labour reforms bills in the house, labour Minister Santosh Gangwar said, "The purpose of labour reforms is to provide a transparent system to suit the changed business environment." The minister informed the house that as many as 16 states had already increased the threshold for closure, lay off and retrenchment in firms with up to 300 workers without government permission. “States have been given flexibility to tweak labour laws as per their need,” he said.
He maintained that it is not good for employment generation to keep the threshold low at 100 because it discourages employers to recruit more workers than this and they deliberately keep their workers' strength below it. “Investors will be encouraged to set up big factories and employ more and more workers,” minister Gangwar said explaining the rationale behind the provision. He said these bills would safeguard the interest of workers and provide universal social security to workers by expanding the ambit of Employees' Provident Fund Organization and Employees' State Corporation of India.
He also said that there would be a social security fund to cover around 40 crore unorganized sector workers. Commenting on the Social Security Code, the minister said, Employee Provident Fund Organization benefits can now be availed by all firms with 20 or more employees as the existing Schedule defining establishments has been done away with. “Besides, employees with firms less than 20 workers will be able to join EPF while the government will also extend the benefits of EPFO to self-employed,” the minister said. He sought to allay the apprehension that workers’ right to strike had been withdrawn under the new Code. “The provision of 14 days’ notice prior to strike is intended to enable employees and employers reconcile during this period,” he added.
Industry has welcomed the codes. “The comprehensive reforms promise to reset the entire regulatory framework to benefit millions of workers and provide enterprises with flexibility, transparency and clarity,” said Chandrajit Banerjee, director general of the Confederation of Indian Industry. (Source: Economic Times)