Even as it plans to press ahead with more reforms in labour laws, the government has had to pause to review the Factories Amendment Bill, 2014.
Labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya has called a meeting with trade unions on February 19 to discuss the proposed amendments and will review the Bill based on the discussions.
The meeting is significant given that the labour ministry had gone ahead with the amendments without tripartite consultations when the Bill was finalised and introduced in Lok Sabha in August last year.
“We will place the recommendations of the Standing Committee and the proposed amendments and will take a decision on what to do after the meeting next week,” said a senior labour ministry official, adding that it was uncertain whether the Bill would be taken up for discussion in the upcoming Budget session of Parliament.
“We will have to see what to do and how to proceed,” he added. The labour ministry’s move comes after the Standing Committee on Labour in its report presented in December had suggested a rethink on many of the proposed amendments relating to a higher threshold for defining a factory, substitution of the term “hazardous process” with “hazardous substance” as well as many other provisions such as those relating to overtime and employment of women in night shifts.
The committee in its report had also prodded the ministry to hold consultations with the recognised Central Trade Unions before finalising the proposed amendments.
“The Committee are given to understand that under the ILO Conventions No 144 on Tripartism such legislative initiative by the government should be preceded by tripartite consultation between the government, the employers’ organisations and the trade unions,” the report noted, adding that trade unions had alleged that the proposed bill was not discussed with them.
The Factories (Amendment) Bill, 2014 is seen as one of the landmark labour law reforms mooted by the government, which is keen to promote its ‘Make in India’ campaign to boost domestic manufacturing.
The Bill, which seeks to ease regulations on hours of work and overtime to workers, has also proposed doubling the threshold of workers for definition of a factory, which in turn would exclude nearly 70 per cent of all such units from the purview of labour laws.
The Bill was cleared by the Union Cabinet last July along with the amendment of the Apprentices Act 1961 and the Labour Laws (exemption from furnishing returns and maintaining registers by certain establishments) Act, 1988 that have since been cleared by Parliament.
Significantly, the BJP ruled state of Goa too had made an intervention before the Parliamentary panel on the provision of hazardous substances.