Home / News / India /  Govt plans outreach on labour codes in run-up to state polls

NEW DELHI : T

he Centre will organize a coordinated outreach programme to address the concerns of informal sector workers on the four new labour codes before the crucial assembly elections next year. All government ministries and departments will be part of the initiative to sensitize the masses on the far-reaching benefits of the new laws.

The government seeks to clear all doubts regarding the four labour codes, which were lauded as a crucial reform initiative by the industry, but faced resistance from trade unions and employees’ organizations, which termed the new laws as anti-worker, compromising working-class interest.

A 30-page document, titled New Labour Code for New India, has been prepared by the ministries of labour, and information and broadcasting, and all government ministries are being sensitized about the four codes to project uniform views during central, state, and district level discourses.

The eight chapters in the document explains how the new laws will benefit the working class, and termed it as the “biggest labour reforms in Independent India".

“The central government has taken historical steps of codifying 29 laws into four codes so that workers get security along with respect, health, and other welfare measures with ease," according to the first chapter. A copy of the outreach document has been reviewed by Mint.

“The labour reforms undertaken by the government will have far-reaching implication on both workers and industries. But it is largely perceived as anti-worker and that perception must change. The 30-32-page document gives a detailed view on workers and how they will benefit. All the ministries are getting copies of it and political parties will also take them to the grass roots," said a government official, who declined to be named.

On the sections of the laws being opposed by workers and trade unions, the official said: “They already know what they are criticising. Our effort is to give details about which critics are either ignoring or underplaying."

Interestingly, the government is silent on the implementation date for the labour codes on wages, social security, occupational safety, and industrial relations. The document available in the labour ministry website, has also not mentioned anything about an implementation time-frame.

While Parliament has given its assent, rules are yet to be finalized. The initial target for the roll-out was April 2021. But delays in rule-making both at central and state levels, as well as the upcoming assembly elections may have thrown a spanner in the works on the government’s plans to implement them.

Considering that states, including Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and Gujarat are going to polls in 2022, large-scale dissent from workers, along with the ongoing farmers’ protests, could have political ramifications. The outreach programme could help the government to hold on to its ground in the run up to the elections.

The four labour codes are expected to introduce sweeping changes that would affect both businesses and workers. While employers would have greater flexibility in rolling out short-term work contracts and while industrial strikes may become harder, a new national wage floor could benefit workers, besides informal and gig workers will have a new social security net. A key change in the definition of “wage" would impact take-home pay, but increase retirement savings—something that a section employers are opposed to as it may increase their employee costs.

“We support all pro-worker measures…But we have been maintaining that the four codes need to be reworked after due diligence and wide consultations afresh," said Amarjeet Kaur, general secretary, All India Trade Union Congress.

Trade unions said while the wage code talks about mandatory national minimum wage it is yet to be worked out even two years after the code was passed.

Mint reported in September how India’s plans to introduce mandatory national minimum wage hit a roadblock with the labour ministry setting up a third committee to work out the floor wage, after rejecting the first committee report and disbanding second following the resignation of a few members.

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