The government on Tuesday introduced two Bills in the Lok Sabha — the Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions (OSH) Bill, 2019 and the Code on Wages Bill, 2019 — which together would usher in labour reforms after subsuming 17 laws.
As Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar introduced the Bills in the House, the Opposition made a forceful plea for sending the legislation to a standing committee for detailed examination.
The OSH Code simplifies, amalgamates and rationalises the provisions of 13 central labour laws into a concise volume with certain important changes. It would apply to all establishments having 10 or more workers, except those relating to mines and docks. It will expand the ambit of the provisions relating to working conditions of cine and theatre workers to include them under the category of digital audio-visual workers, encompassing all forms of electronic media.
The Bill will also include journalists working for electronic media, such as e-paper, radio or other media. It will also expand the scope of inter-state migrant workers to include those recruited or engaged by an employer directly from one state to another for employment.
The Code on Wages universalises the provisions of minimum wages and timely payment of wages to employees, irrespective of the sector and wage ceiling.
Opposing the introduction of the Bill, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, floor leader of the Congress, said it will be a “grave injustice” if the Bills are not sent to a standing committee for scrutiny. He said it needs more time for discussion.
Saugata Roy of the Trinamool Congress alleged that the Bill had been brought in “at the behest of employers”. “Workers will not be heard,” he said, adding that their interests would not be protected.
N K Premachandran of the RSP pointed out that it was a “fresh” Bill and affected the “entire workforce”.
Responding to queries, Gangwar said the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code was sent to the Standing Committee during the 16th Lok Sabha. He said the Bills have been drafted after consulting 13 workers’ organisations. The minister asked the members to let the legislation be introduced and offered “to accept whatever the House decides”.
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