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Do not tweak labour laws for global firms wanting to move out of China: RSS affiliate

Trade unions cutting across party lines Wednesday asked the Ministry of Labour to restrain the states from changing labour laws to facilitate the movement of multinational firms from China to India.

Written by Liz Mathew | New Delhi |
Updated: May 6, 2020 7:49:42 pm
Gujarat: Work on Rajkot flyover, underbridge set to begin Labourers at a construction site in West Bengal. (Representational picture)

Even as the ruling BJP and several state governments are keen on tweaking labour and land acquisition laws in line with the Prime Minister’s call to make India a more attractive destination for global firms wanting to move out of China, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), the trade union wing of the RSS, has raised strong objection to such measures.

Trade unions cutting across party lines Wednesday asked the Ministry of Labour to restrain the states from changing labour laws to facilitate the movement of multinational firms from China to India. Follow LIVE Updates

“If the government is allowing the states to amend the labour laws, which include extension of working hours, it would result in a situation worse than coronavirus pandemic. So we have asked the labour minister to write to all the states to ask them to desist from such a move,” Saji Narayanan, national president of BMS, affiliated to the RSS, told The Indian Express.

On Wednesday, Narayanan as well as representatives from 12 trade unions had a meeting with Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar to discuss various issues related to the workers during the COVID 19 outbreak and the consequent lockdown. Gangwar will have another meeting with employers Friday.

The BMS also told the minister that the migrant labourers should not be forced to stay back in their respective states of work in order to make industrial units and business units function, and if the migrants are staying back, there should be adequate incentives by the host states. “If the states want the workers to come back, the workers should be provided incentives such as free train tickets and electronic passes. You cannot force them to stay back and work,” the BMS leader said.

The Sangh affiliate’s suggestions come a day after the BJP-ruled Karnataka announced that no more trains will run to ferry migrant workers stranded in the state. Reports suggested that the decision came after Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa met prominent real estate firms and the builders in the state.

BMS also opposed compulsory salary cuts of government employees in some states. “Kerala was the first state that announced that the five-day salaries of all the employees will be deducted for six months. Now, 14 states have announced compulsory pay cuts. We want the state governments to scrap the move,” he said.

According to Narayanan, changing labour laws would not turn India into a favourite destination for investors. “India can never be China, because we are a democratic country, we have trade unions and we have labourers, unlike China. Some firms have already moved to Vietnam, which has an atmosphere similar to China,” he said.

In the meeting, the BMS pointed out that many states, including Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, have already tweaked labour laws through executive orders. “We asked the minister to ask the states to stick to the ILO (International Labour Organisation) conventions and the existing labour laws.

Incidentally, in a report prepared after consultation with stakeholders including industrialists, the BJP has suggested major long-term changes in the manufacturing policy, including easing of labour laws and simplifying contract enforcement provisions, to help India bounce back from the economic slump.

On April 29, The Indian Express reported that the Uttar Pradesh government had engaged with US business firms to explore possibilities of the opportunities thrown up by the coronavirus crisis in the world. In the meeting attended by top US companies , Uttar Pradesh Minister for MSME, Investment and Exports Siddharth Nath Singh had assured that the state would be open for discussions on business and industry-friendly policies.

BMS, which claims to have around 6000 unions affiliated to it, had clashed with BJP-led government led by Vasundhara Raje in Rajasthan when the latter cleared critical amendments to three labour laws – the Industrial Disputes Act, Contract Labour Act and the Factories act, saying they were adverse to the interests of the workers.

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