LS clears labour codes; promises appointment letters for all workers, gender pay parity, migrant welfare

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Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 22

The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed three labour codes which seek to amalgamate 29 central legislations into one with the purposes of widening the social security net for workers and making it easy for companies to do business.

Replying to the debate on the Codes – The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code 2020, The Industrial Relations Code 2020 and The Code on Social Security 2020, Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar said the new framework was necessary to align workers and industry to a world where work from home is the new normal.

“The Codes provide for issuance of appointment letters to all workers to encourage formal employment, widens the definition of migrant worker for the purpose of their benefit, provides for re-skilling of retrenched workforce and lays down the role of trade unions in industrial dispute resolution. These codes will prove a milestone for worker welfare in India,” he said as the Bills were passed amid opposition boycott of proceedings.

The government came up with four codes to create structures for easy compliance by industry and ensure social security for workers.

The fourth code—Code on Wages—has already been passed by Parliament and has become a law. In all there were 44 central labour laws of which the government repealed some.

The minister allayed concerns around the right of workers to strike being made difficult saying the codes do not take away this right. The Bills, however, made it mandatory for striking labour unions to give a 14 day prior notice for a strike and say the workers will not strike while negotiations are on. The Bills also make it mandatory for a valid trade union to show support of 75 per cent workers.

The codes will cover 50 crore workers from the organised, unorganised and self employed sector for purposes of minimum wages, social security. They talk of pay parity to women workers as compared to male counterparts; 50 per cent penalty in cases of accidents to go to the workers along with other dues.

The Codes also say that a National Occupational Safety and Health Board will be formed for providing international level safety environment while working journalists’ definition will be expanded to include Digital and Electronic Media.

In respect of migrants, the codes clarify that all migrant workers will now be covered by law instead of just those brought by contactors.

“Data base on migrant workers through law to help better targeting, skill mapping and utilisation of governments schemes will be created and migrant workers will get journey allowance from employer to visit home town once a year. A help line for migrants will be provided to redress grievances,” the Bills say.

The codes will also cover gig and platform workers opening doors for social security to those in the self-employment sector.

One concern around the Codes is – these allow employers of units with less than 300 workers to terminate employment without prior notice. The threshold limit earlier was 100 workers.

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