The Gujarat government is set to implement the new labour laws early next year, with minister Vijay Rupani saying that he would pitch the state as a safe investment destination having zero industrial accident and complete labour peace at the upcoming Vibrant Gujarat Summit.
“I am happy to inform you that under the leadership of honourable Minister (of Labour and Employment Vijay Rupani), we have brought amendments to labour laws. The Government of India and the President have given their assent to them, and the rules will be notified by December 30 for their implementation,” said Sanjay Prasad, Principal Secretary, Department of Labour and Employment. He was addressing a seminar on industrial safety, environment and occupational health on Friday.
The one-day seminar was organised by Kutch Saurashtra Productivity Council and Directorate of Industrial Safety and Health of Gujarat.
The Assembly had passed the Labour Laws (Gujarat Amendment) Bill, 2015 in February this year.
Prasad informed the gathering that Gujarat has 402 chemical factories with the potential to cause disasters like the Bhopal gas tragedy, to which Rupani, who was present there, replied that such units were inspected thrice a year.
Addressing the seminar, Rupani said the government was working towards making Gujarat “free from industrial accidents by 2017”. “Safety of workers is the primary responsibility of industries. Our goal should be zero industrial accident by 2017. At the 2017 Vibrant Gujarat Summit, we should project Gujarat as safe Gujarat, secure Gujarat,” he said.
The minister said there was a need to take better care of labourers in unorganised sectors and those working on contracts. “There are 40,000 registered factories in the state which are governed by labour laws and they are inspected every year. The hazardous chemical factories are inspected thrice a year and proper safeguards are in place. But, there are a number of other factories in the state which are not registered. Labourers in unorganised sector are working by risking their lives. Contractual labourers are also risking their lives. There is a need to think about them. We want to project Gujarat as safe and secure state where there is safety of workers and labour peace. The policy of the government is ‘satisfied workers, rich industries’,” said Rupani.
Noting the key changes in the labour policy due to new laws, Prasad said: “A lot of changes have been made. Firstly, an industrial unit employing more than 50 persons will compulsorily have to get itself registered online with the state government…. Inspection will be done once in every five years and officers of concerned departments will conduct inspection simultaneously. We will also have a voluntary audit scheme. We shall award stars to firms opting for the audit and it will be helpful in export, bank transactions, etc.”
The draft laws empower an employer to change nature of work of an employee without any prior notice and also reduce the time limit from three years to one year for an employee to file case against employer in case of a dispute. The most striking among the 14 amendments is to make labour disputes a compoundable offence, meaning disputes can be settled out of court with the government playing the mediator.
The draft laws also have provisions to ban strikes in public utility services for up to one year.
However, the secretary said that the amendments were aimed at ushering in transparency and securing rights of labourers. “We have introduced provision of compounding offences. Labourers and industry houses had to move the court to resolve small disputes and this used to take a lot time. But, under the new provisions, an offence can be compounded and 75 per cent of fine collected through such settlement will go towards welfare of labourers,” said Prasad.
He added that amendments provide that labourers working on contract and for outsourcing agencies would also be covered under the minimum wages act. Plus, industrial units employing more than 20 people will have to pay salary through cheques or fund transfer in bank accounts.