The Gujarat Assembly on Tuesday passed four Bills of the labour and employment department that watered down existing provisions of The Industries Disputes Act, 1947 and the Factories Act, 1948, in favour of employers and industrial establishments.
The state government citied the economic circumstances prevailing due to Covid-19 for making the changes in the two Acts. The Opposition Congress party walked out during discussion on the The Labour Laws (Gujarat Amendment) Bill, 2020 which extended late into Tuesday night. During the discussion on the Bill, Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel made a personal remark against Congress MLA Naushad Solanki. In protest Solanki sat down on the floor and refused to leave the House and sought apology from Patel.
.The first Bill to be tabled by Minister for Labour and Employment Dilipkumar Thakor was The Industrial Disputes (Gujarat Amendment) Bill, 2020. The Bill allows industrial establishments with less than 300 workers to shut shop or retrench or lay off employees without seeking prior permission from the state government.
The minister pointed out that as per the existing provision of Section 25K of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, industrial establishments with not less than 100 workers need to take “prior permission of the state government” before effecting layoff, retrenchment and closure. This has been now amended to cover industries employing 300 workers.
“We have seen that similar changes brought by states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh have yielded good results. The changes will attract more business and investments into the state and thus will create more job opportunities,” Thakor said. The government had introduced an Ordinance in this regard in July 2020. The Bill was passed by a voice vote, despite Opposition by members of the Congress who said that the state government needed to stand with workers instead of employers.
Three other Bills tabled by the labour and employment minister Dilipkumar Thakor were also passed. This included The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) (Gujarat Amendment) Bill, 2020, which revised the existing threshold limit of workmen employed by contractors or establishments covered under The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970 to more than 50 employees. Earlier, units with 20 or more employees were covered under the Act.
While tabling The Labour Laws (Gujarat Amendment) Bill, 2020, the minister said two new sections are being inserted in the Industrial Disputes Act 1947 and Factories Act 1948, which “empowers the state government to exempt for a period of 1,000 days to new establishments or undertakings from all or any of the provisions of both the Acts.”
The Factories (Gujarat Amendment) Bill, 2020 which was also passed in the Assembly, also waters down the definition of “factory” under the Factories Act, 1948.
“Due to increase in manufacturing activities by small units in the state, the existing threshold limit of “ten” and “twenty” is proposed to be amended by “twenty” and ” forty” respectively so that establishing of small manufacturing units be promoted resulting in creation of more employment opportunities,” the minister said.
During the discussions on the Bill, Congress MLA, Anil Joshiyara said that the changes are being brought in favour of employers. “You should have kept the interest of workers first while making the changes, Joshiyara added.
Independent MLA Jignesh Mevani while opposing The Factories (Gujarat Amendment) Bill, 2020 said, “Looking at the Covid situation, all these legislation should have been pro-labour instead of pro-industries.”
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