The Rajya Sabha on Friday passed a Bill to regulate wages and bonuses of employees in the formal and informal sector. The Code on Wages, 2019, which seeks to consolidate several labour-related laws, will also set minimum and floor wages, and states cannot set wages lower than the floor wage.
Introducing the Bill, Minister of State with Independent Charge for Labour and Employment Santosh Gangwar said the Bill will benefit a workforce of 50 crore. The Bill, which was passed by Lok Sabha on Tuesday, was passed by Rajya Sabha with 85 votes in favour compared to eight votes against it.
Gangwar told the House that the Union government will not fix the minimum wage. That will be done by states, but the wages cannot be lower than a floor wage which will be decided by an advisory committee, he said. “The Centre will not take the rights of the states,” he assured the Rajya Sabha.
The minister said a tripartite committee with representatives of trade unions, employers and states will decide the floor wage and “minimum wage will become right of every worker”. In the first meeting, he said, 13 unions participated, but the participation of unions has waned since then due to “political considerations”.
The Bill guarantees that workers will not be discriminated on the basis of gender, and male, female and transgenders will have the same rights and wages, the minister said.
The government has accepted 17 of the 24 recommendations made by the Standing Committee when a Bill on the same lines had been introduced in the Parliament in 2017, the minister said, a fact that was also appreciated by members of the Opposition.
Congress leader Madhusudan Mistry said it is “unfortunate” that “we are still talking about minimum wage” and “not a fair wage, not a living wage”. He said the state should be an “ideal employer” but instead it was hiring people on contract. He listed out the various issues faced by labourers in the country and asked the government how it will ensure that everyone is paid the minimum wage.