India’s largest trade union body the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) affiliate, on Friday criticized an attempt by the Union government to merge 13 labour laws into a single code on occupational safety and working conditions.
The move comes two days after 10 other trade unions refused to meet the labour ministry saying they are not ready to deliberate on an important reform with just two days notice.
The BMS said the government’s draft bill is not inclusive and does not cater to a large part of the over-470 million workers community.
The BMS’s move is likely to put the government under pressure. The government was looking to present and pass the code on occupational health and safety in the winter session of Parliament, but the BMS’s close ties with RSS, the ideological parent of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, will likely make it hard for the labour ministry to push through the bill without taking trade unions on board.
“Codification of about 13 labour laws is a welcome move. But the very purpose of codification is defeated when it excludes many of the important constituents in the world of work. The law should be applicable to the last worker in the country," the BMS wrote to the labour ministry.
The draft Labour Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions merges labour laws such as the Factories Act, Mines Act, Contract labour (regulation and abolition) Act, and Building and Other Construction Workers Act.
The BMS said the new code should be progressive rather than “taking our country to the feudal age". Reforms should have a human face and the code should not only help profit-making but also ease the workload. “Ease of living is equally important along with ease of doing business," it added.
The organization also called for bifurcation of the code—one on occupational heath and the other on working conditions.
The BMS said the draft bill doesn’t have enough provisions for employees in smaller factories, informal sector, and medium and small plantation hubs, thus defeating the purpose of inclusiveness. “Hence the draft in the present form is of no use in improving the conditions in the world of work," BMS said.
K.R. Shyam Sundar, a labour economist and professor at XLRI Jamshedpur, said the code “does not address adequately the injuries and accidents in the factories and keeps out a sizable portion of small establishments from its purview".
Echoing this view, the BMS said the code’s definition of factories excludes a mine or a mobile unit belonging to the armed force. Apprentices and administrative staff in companies were not considered as employees in the draft bill and wants the Shops and Establishments Act that governs the information technology sector to be under this code.
The BMS said the inspection system specified in the code is not strong enough to ensure effective implementation or ensure the welfare of employees in the work place.
A senior functionary of another trade union, however, was critical of BMS’s approach. “BMS is critical of the labour reform, but are not joining other trade unions for joint action for more than two-and-a-half years. Are they playing the role of ruling party and the opposition at the same time?" he said requesting not be named.
Draft law not inclusive: BMS
> The Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, or BMS, opposes current draft labour code on occupational safety, saying it’s not inclusive
> BMS has asked the labour ministry to redraft the bill in a move that will restrict govt’s hand in pursuing it in winter session of the Parliament
> The union, an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, is batting for equal importance to ease of living like ease of doing business
> The trade union’s tough stand against the reform comes two days after other trade unions declined to join a tripartite meeting called by the labour ministry