Following the passage of the three labour codes in Parliament last month, the Labour and Employment Ministry has now floated the first set of draft rules for the Industrial Relations Code, proposing changes in the conditions for workers to strike, alongside a rise in the threshold relating to layoffs and retrenchment in industrial establishments to 300 workers from 100 workers earlier without any government nod.
The draft rules — which have been put out for public feedback for a month — propose electronic methods for most communication, including maintenance of an electronic register for standing orders for all industrial establishments, along with specifying establishments to give a 15-day notice for lay-offs, 60-day notice for retrenchments and 90-day notice for closure as they apply for permission from the government.
The rules, however, have skipped defining model standing order and left the formulation of rules for trade unions to state governments, a measure which experts said will create divergence in rule making across the country.
The Industrial Relations Code had raised the threshold for requirement of a standing order — rules of conduct for workmen employed in industrial establishments — to over 300 workers.
“Most important thing was the model standing order. The central government is supposed to make it and employers can adopt it, and then it will be deemed to be a standing order. The government may use the notification route. Earlier it used to be with rules, but it hasn’t been put out yet, which isn’t the correct method,” XLRI professor and labour economist KR Shyam Sundar said.
Rules relating to political contribution, or utilisation of funds or negotiating council for trade unions have also been left to be finalised by state governments. Also, most communication has been made electronic, which may hit a roadblock, experts said. “Most things have been left to the electronic process which means companies or employers, small or big, or trade unions, or labour departments or tribunals, all must have electronic communication systems. It is a big ask,” Sundar said.
The draft rules have also detailed conditions for functioning of the proposed re-skilling fund for retrenched workers. “Every employer who has retrenched a worker or workers under this Code, shall, within ten days, at the time of retrenching a worker or workers shall electronically transfer an amount equivalent to fifteen days of last drawn wages of such retrenched worker or workers in the account to be maintained by the Central Government. The fund so received shall be transferred by the Central Government to each worker or workers’ account electronically within forty five days of receipt of funds from the employer and the worker shall utilize such amount for his re-skilling,” the rules said.
The government is aiming to implement the four labour codes from April 1 next year. The Centre is also going to reach out to states to hasten the process for setting rules at their level in order to meet the April 1 deadline.
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