Parliament today passed a bill seeking to enable the Centre and state governments to specify industrial units which will have to pay wages only either through cheques or by transferring into bank accounts. The Payment of Wages (Amendment) Bill 2017, which was passed by voice vote in Rajya Sabha today, also enables the employers to pay wages to workers through cheque or by transferring into their bank account without their written authorisation. Lok Sabha had passed the bill yesterday.
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Allaying apprehensions of members that it will take away workers’ right to get their wages in cash, Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya told the House “this will improve the compliance of labour laws. Exploitation of workers is going on. There is cut in payments (of wages in cash).”
“No way are we taking away the rights of workers. This bill is going to strengthen those. We want them to get their wages through transparent manner,” he said.
About the urgency of adopting ordinance route to implement the provisions of the bill, the minister said “both the Houses were not functioning at that time (in December when the Ordinance was brought). That is why I have brought this bill in this session.”
The minister had introduced the bill in Lok Sabha on December 15, 2016, just before the Winter Session ended. The government had then taken the ordinance route.
The bill replaces the Payment of Wages (Amendment) Bill 2016, which was introduced in Lok Sabha on December 15, 2016 and repeals the Payment of Wages (Amendment) Ordinance 2016 promulgated on December 28, 2016.
“As both the Houses of Parliament were not in session and immediate action was required to be taken to ensure that the benefits of the proposed legislation reach the employed person a the earliest, President promulgated the Payment of Wages (Amendment) Ordinance 2016,” the bill stated.
The decision to adopt ordinance route to amend the Act was taken by the Union Cabinet on December 21, 2016.
However, some members including Renuka Chowdhury (Cong), D Raja (CPI), P Bhattacharya and Shantaram Naik (both Cong) and Sukhendu Sekhar Roy (TMC) expressed apprehensions that this will take away the right of the workers to get their wages in cash, especially amid the currency crunch due to demonetisation and in the absence of required banking infrastructure in the country, particularly in rural areas.
The minister said Section 20 of the bill “provides for six months imprisonment for violation of the Act. Moreover the inspector can initiate appropriate action under the Factories Act 1948.”